Two days after news headlines told the world that Australia had the highest number per capita of nationals fighting Jihad overseas, a hard-line government statement threatening asylum seekers, recorded months ago but never shown to the public, has found its way to the news.
Last Thursday, it was reported that Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop had said that 150 Australians were fighting in Iraq and Syria for the Sunni extremist group ISIS in that group’s attempt to establish a Sunni caliphate across the Middle East.
Additionally, the recent ISIS recruitment video “There Is No Life Without Jihad,” released this month, was reported to feature two Australians.
In addition to those already in the Middle East, Bishop had cancelled the passports of several Australian nationals on advice from intelligence agencies. Bishop also said that Australian citizens were not only participating in the conflict in Syria and Iraq, but were taking “leadership roles in radicalising others in these conflicts.”
“In Syria it seems that over a period of time they have moved from supporting the more moderate opposition groups to the extreme,” Bishop said, “and that includes this brutal extremist group ISIS.”
“We are concerned that Australians are working with them, being radicalised, learning the terrorist trade and if they come back to Australia of course it poses a threat.”
At the time, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison had said that Australia’s Abbott government was trying to find ways to cancel visa and revoke citizenship for dual nationals that have taken part in these conflicts, pointing out, “It is a crime to fight with terrorist organisations and this [ISIS] is a listed terrorist organisation.”
Prime Minister Tony Abbot also publicly spoke on the subject, saying that the government would do what it could to protect Australia from extremists returning to Australia.
“The best thing we can do for Australians at home is to ensure that jihadis do not come back to this country,” said Abbot.
“We will do everything we humanly can to stop jihadist terrorists coming into this country and if they do return to this country, we will do everything we reasonably can to ensure that they are not moving amongst the Australian community.
“We will ensure we stop the jihadists as well because the last thing we want is people who have been radicalised and militarized by experience with these Al Qaeda offshoots in the Middle East returning to create mischief here in Australia.”
In the video released Wednesday by The Guardian, which had been recorded in September but had never been shown to the public, Morrison spoke of detention centers on the Papua New Guinean (PNG) islands of Manus and Nauru, where asylum seekers from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and other nations were being held.
“There are new rules in place under this government so I urge you to think carefully about your next decision and to make a decision to get on with the rest of your life and to not remain here and take the option to go back to the country from which you’ve originally come.”
Australia is a signatory to the Refugee Convention, under which the country cannot legally return asylum seekers to their origins if they are subject to persecution. Australia has been criticized for infringing upon the rights of asylum seekers by Human Rights Watch, who claimed that residents of Manus had been offered repatriation despite their testimony that they feared certain death if returned to their country of origin.
In the video, Morrison tells asylum seekers that certain detainees would never be resettled in Australia under the governments “PNG solution.”
The PNG solution detains all arriving asylum seekers who come by boat to be processed and resettled off of the Australian mainland.
“You will not be getting what you got on that boat for,” said Morrison, “and anyone else who tries to come will not get what they got on that boat for.
“You have been brought to this place here because you have sought to illegally enter Australia by boat. The new Australian government will not be putting up with those sorts of arrivals. ” Morrison spoke of the asylum seekers, saying that if they had valid claims, they would still “never be resettled in Australia,” and if they did not have claims, they would be detained in the camp until they return, and that the government would not change its position.
“If you choose not to go home then you will spend a very, very long time here and so I urge you to think carefully about that decision and make a decision to get on with the rest of your life.
“You have been told a lie by people smugglers. They have taken advantage of you. They have ripped you off. And I understand you will feel very angry about that. But the facts will not change. You are where you are because you have sought to come to Australia illegally by boat. You should tell anyone else you know who seeks to follow you that they should not do it, or they shall find themselves in a similar circumstance or much, much worse. You should tell anyone in Australia who may have supported you… that the new government will be looking for them.”
By Day Blakely Donaldson