Monday, March 21, 2005

Christian religions shout Hallelujah (for now)

You can be reconsidered a worthy potential Australian if you convert to christianity.

Previously, the Immigration Department has viewed conversions to Christianity with suspicion. But yesterday a spokesman for the Immigration Minister, Amanda Vanstone, confirmed the only reason for reconsidering 30 cases of people currently in long term detention was their new religion.

"All these people had exhausted the [assessment and appeals] process and failed. Once you have exhausted the process and failed, you're over. You've had your go and that's it."
- Spokesman for the Immigration Minister, Amanda Vanstone.

Once Australian, are you free to find Haile Selassie, Guru Adrian, or the Seventh Day Advent Hoppists?

Or will it be structured like a fiance visa? If the conversion doesn't end in consummation within six months then out of Australia you go?

Update:
HoWARd denies religious bias, and a new immigration worker gets moved to media liaison...


Image from here

16 Comments:

Blogger Girl Genius said...

I think this story has been subject to some vast misinterpretations. Pressure from Families First nonwithstanding, the majority of people who will be reviewed seem to come from countries where christians can realistically expect to be abused/killed/arrested/harassed etc.

It's not that the government will change its mind because it wants christians not muslims. It's more the case that this is a last-ditch-attempt by these poor people to get out of detention. Sad that the system is more concerned with christian freedom than political freedom!

1:52 pm  
Blogger Nu-Ju said...

Well those sick bastards. Obviously Howard is using Israle as his role model, next we'll nationalise the land and only let christians use it.

4:53 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wedge politics as usual. Many who support the cause of asylumn seekers are put into the bind.

Particularly, concern for those who have been held for up to 6 years. If it helps some poor bastards to get out of the concentration camps and it saves Johnnys arse amongst the christian right,so be it.

5:35 pm  
Blogger Brownie said...

a miracle christian virgin experience going on at my place and at Fluffy's who has a pan from Fitzroy's Napier Hotel that has got more than Virgin Olive Oil on it.

8:32 pm  
Blogger Dave said...

Whereas, if Muslims lobbied for some Asylum Seekers based on the grounds that they might be subject to abuse, torture or death upon returning to their country of origin, DIMIA would then come out with the generic line that these cases have already been "assessed on their merits".

This is a favour for and a bow-down to conservative god-fearing Christian loonies... It's also quite evident that Howard would rather "converted" Christian Asylum Seekers in Australia than Muslims who have been assessed as refugees anyway.

This announcement today amounts to discrimination and playing favourites. How more petty and pathetic can this government get?

12:26 am  
Blogger The Heretik said...

SL
Nice to see you at work. Image Credit?
Fight on, friend.

1:37 am  
Blogger weezil said...

Dave-o sed "How more petty and pathetic can this government get?"

Ummm.. they could utterly ignore 350 brown people from an overloaded people smuggler boat who drowned in Australian P3 Orion partolled waters... and pretend it never happened?

Oh wait, that's not petty, just pathetic.

3:26 am  
Blogger suki said...

The Uniting church seems to be the arbiter of all things legitimately christian with detainees having passed 'the test.'

"This is a huge decision that people make and I believe that we've put in place processes which certainly give us confidence that those people who have responded have responded appropriately"

Now we as a society are going to decide what it means to be legitimately christian.

This just gets worse and worse...

9:27 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Suki,things aren't that bad. The Young Liberals stocks are up. Wild and crazy guys don't bother with condoms and wait 25 years to find out results. Baptists down. Catholics steady.
All right Uniting Church ,have stolen a march.

5:13 pm  
Blogger Andrew Bartlett said...

Sorry, I have to disagree on this one. The story in the media alleging some sort of special treatment for asylum seekers who claim to be Christian converts annoys me immensely and is basically nonsense.

Religious conversion has been a factor in assessing some claims for asylum for decades. Indeed, the whole Refugee Convention came about in part due to people suffering religious persecution. The issue isn't what religion somebody claims to be, the issue is whether or not they may be subject to serious persecution as a consequence (incl possible execution in places like Iran) if they are sent home. The Minister's decision to reassess 30 or so peeople is no different to decisions that have been made heaps of times in the last.

Dave's suggestion that this is "a bow down to conservative god-fearing Christian loonies" is silly. The Minister has made many similar decisions in the past to intervene on similar cases in response to urgings from people like me (who is not Christian at all BTW) - why are these decisions different?

From their public statements, Family First is lobbying the Govt on more than just the Christian asylum seekers, and whilst I dislike their policies and rhetoric on same sex couples, abortion, etc, I'm pleased they are at least using some of their energies on an issue I agree with.

Also, many Muslims have "lobbied for some Asylum Seekers based on the grounds that they might be subject to abuse, torture or death upon returning to their country of origin." Their religion is only relevant if it relates to a possible ground of persecution - occasionally that does apply to Muslims (for example from areas where there has been sectarian violence with Hindus), or if they are Muslim and gay, which I know has been grounds for some refugee visas being given in Australia (after some struggles and court action in at least some cases)

Of course people may have an incentive to lie - people have an incentive to lie if they want any sort of visa and they don't meet the criteria. That's part of what makes implementing migration laws very difficult. However, if you have a situation where there is a real risk of serious persecution if you return somebody, you need to be pretty sure that people are faking it.

None of this excuses these asylum seekers being locked up for years while these sorts of things are determined either - regardless of how genuine their claims are.

12:02 am  
Blogger suki said...

Andrew,
I'll suspend disbelief and meet you half-way. Let's just assume that this is not about courting Family First's favours in the new Senate...

Conversion.
The 30 Asylum seekers were not christian when first assessed. This is a new development that the Uniting church states they have thoroughly documented to show DIMIA. What is a reasonable time to practice a religion? Who decides?

Assessing christianity
How is this to be done? How do we assess what religion an Asylum seeker is in the first place to then note a conversion? Can children in detention convert? Do they have to be legally an adult to demonstrate their own religion? Will these Asylum seekers be monitored for their ongoing christianity and for how long? Will they be taken back to Baxter if they convert to Atheism?

DIMIA process
Does DIMIA operate with a point system and this new data will give the Asylum seekers the points they are lacking? If so, is christianity rated higher than say Wiccan?

Whilst I am pleased to hear of cases such as you are clearly privy to, Australia's treatment of the bulk of Asylum seekers is shameful.

Andrew, I support any glimmer of hope for detainees, but not at the expense of changing this illegal, inhumane, racist, system structurally!

4:24 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What gets me is that a new exceptional visa has been set up,today, to allow people who cannot go home because they would have trouble when they returned. Those who have spent up to 7 years in detention centres.
Sounds a bit like an "asylumn seeker" to me.
It is understandable that Andrew is courting the Family First Senator. Stocks are low and pragmatism high. Liberals are looking to save face and he must know that.

Anyway, of letting these poor folks out is fantastic. Just lets not lose sight of political reality.

4:55 pm  
Anonymous BANA said...

I think thestory has been somewhat misinterpreted.

The Issue of one's religion should only be taken into account if because of their belief, they faced persecution in their homeland.

That however with regard to "converts" leaves the govt in a bit of a quandry. These people did not face religious persecution when they left their countries and because of it they failed to make the grade for a visa. Now, however, if we do send them back they will. Assuming they don't reconvert to Islam.

While muslims recognise Christ as an important prophet (the suffi sect even more so), those practicing muslims I know would never think of rennouncing their Islamic faith. Nor would the practicing Christians that I know do so either.

I don't think little Jack Howard or his cohort would be stupid enough to resurrect the old White Australia policy with a Christian Australia policy.

Australia has no official state religion (even though our head of state is the head of the anglican church), or at least that was the case when I last looked at a copy of the Australian Constitution.

BTW Guru Adrian rocks !!

12:19 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Howhards joke. Most funny and sick. Nobody gets out of jail unless they sign up to leaving the country at the whim of Amandastree detention.

7:02 pm  
Blogger Andrew Bartlett said...

Suki (sorry for slow reply)

I don't disgaree with you that 'the treatment of the bulk of Asylum seekers is shameful'. Even those that are finally being recognised as refugees have had to cop years of imprisonment beforehand, which is a disgrace.

There's no point system in deciding if someone is a refugee. Assessing whether someone is a refugee really just comes down to whether or not someone has a genuine fear of persecution in their homeland as a consequence of a range of factors - one of which is religious belief.

I'm not a big fan of any organised religion myself, but I don't think should be persecuted if they do believe that stuff (I'm not suggesting you do think this).

As to how you assess whether or not that religious belief is genuine (regardless of whether its a conversion in detention or not)... There's a range of tests - questions about knowledge of the relevant religion's practices, customs, other peoples' perceptions of the person's practices, etc - but in the end it comes down to whether or not on balance a person is believed and to whether or not they are likely to face persecutiuon if they are returned.

These things will always be subjective to some extent, and many refugee claims (not just ones that rely on religious belief) fail basically because the Dept and the Tribunal just don't believe people.

I guess what I'm mainly saying is that it is not a new thing for some people to have claimed to have converted to Christianity while in detention (not least because sometimes they are sometimes visited by local priests or people from the local church are the ones visiting and supporting them over the months and years in detention).

I'm all for major structural change of the system - until this happens the same tragic and stupidly appalling stories will just keep repeating themselves - but I don't want every asylum seeker to be stuck in the meantime, because whilst I think things are going in the right direction, they're progressing very slowly.

6:43 pm  
Blogger suki said...

I remain committed to structural change and this government's accountability with regard to treatment of Asylum seekers.

Within that, is the fact that Every person matters. Each one is a disengaged subsystem -existing and (hopefully) surviving…
Yes, let’s employ harm minimisation.

10:37 pm  

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