Stranded in the Outback
Refugees at one of Australia’s remote detention centers went on a hunger strike to protest a raid by Australian police. Australia has long been criticized by the United Nations and Amnesty International for its harsh treatment of undocumented immigrants, including detaining people in remote centers located in the desert. Many of the refugees come from the Middle East and the southern provinces of China.
Refugees arriving in Australia without papers are immediately detained once they are caught. Detention can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few years, depending on how long it takes the immigration department to process the case. The detention centers have been criticized for poor living conditions and abusive behavior by the guards. Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock told BBC News that the location of the centers, in the Australian desert where summer temperatures get extremely hot, was a good thing because no one would try to escape.
Similar to the situation in the United States, detention centers in Australia are run by private security firms, but the immigration department claims that this does not translate into poor treatment of those detained.
“Deportable Aliens” Have Some Rights
The U.S. Supreme Court in June ruled that immigrants facing deportation for certain criminal convictions are entitled to a court hearing—a case that provides relief to thousands of immigrants affected by the harsh anti-immigrant laws of 1996.
INS v. St. Cyr rejected the Justice Department’s contention that the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act and the Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act denied judicial review in deportation cases and could be applied retroactively to immigrants who had pleaded guilty to crimes before the laws’ enactment.
Immigrant rights activists are hoping this case will open the door to more challenges on behalf of those being held in INS detention centers. Because Cuba, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam refuse to accept deportees from the U.S., immigrants from these countries remain indefinitely in detention for even minor crimes.
Asian Race Riot
The town of Oldham, England was home to several protests and dozens of arrests throughout May. Early in the month, the National Front, an ultra-right wing political group, defied a ban on political marches and brought 500 people to the town for a demonstration. The group is known for their extreme anti-immigrant platform.
Later in the month, the police arrested 21 people after what the International Herald Tribune called a “race riot.” Reports indicate that the conflict started when a group of white youth attacked the house of a Bangladeshi family. The Asians, in this case, are mostly Bangladeshi and Pakistani, many of whom were born and raised in England. At one point it was estimated that 2,000 young people were involved in throwing firebombs at police.
The United States took a big blow to its ego when it failed to be elected to two key United Nations bodies—the UN Human Rights Commission and the International Narcotics Board. It is the first time since the Human Rights Commission was formed in 1947 that the U.S. has not held a seat.
In retaliation, the U.S. congress voted to withhold money owed to the UN in back dues until the U.S. is reinstated, at least on the Human Rights Commission. The United States owes close to $825 million to the United Nations, and is refusing to pay $244 million of that amount. The United Nations is routinely strapped for cash because the United States is so far behind in dues payment. According to BBC news, anti-U.S. sentiments are due to the United States’ “increasing bias against the Palestinians in the Mid-East crisis, and a selfish head-in-the-sand stance on climate change and the environment.”