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Chris Bowen visit puts Labor's self interest before human rights

Media Release
Lee Rhiannon 3 May 2012

Minister for Immigration Chris Bowen should use his current visit to Sri Lanka to take up the issue of ongoing human rights abuses, rather than pandering to the Rajapakse government to shore up ongoing co-operation with Australia against people smuggling, says Greens Senator for NSW Lee Rhiannon.

"It is a disgrace to learn that ahead of his Sri Lanka visit Minister Bowen praised the Rajapakse government for co-operating with Australia against people smuggling," Senator Rhiannon said.

"Minister Bowen's visit is politically motivated. The Australian govt has a long record of working closely with the Sri Lankan government to reduce the numbers of refugees fleeing that country.

"Mr Bowen's interest is to stop unfavourable media stories in Australia, rather than meeting the needs of Tamils who have a right to seek asylum.

 "In February, Human Rights Watch said that at least eight Tamils asylum seekers who were recently deported to Sri Lanka from England were tortured by the Sri Lankan officials in abuses ranging from rape to having their bodies burned with cigarettes.

"A few weeks ago, one of the deportees from the UK was found dead in the East of Sri Lanka.

"These are shocking reports and Australia's praise of Sri Lanka is shameful.

"I know of Tamils in Australia who have had family members in Sri Lanka recently rounded up for interrogation by Government forces.

"Reports coming out of the country indicate that the abuse and discrimination against the Tamils is continuing and increasing.

"Minister Bowen should be publicly voicing strong criticism of Sri Lanka's human rights abuses, not praising them for stopping refugees coming to Australia," Senator Rhiannon said.

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