Time for an amnesty

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  • Published 20061103
  • ISBN: 9780733316722
  • Extent: 252 pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm)

IN 2002, A young Russian mother still breastfeeding her baby was separated from the child and locked up in the Villawood detention centre. The image of a woman being taken from her infant and being put under threat of imminent deportation was shocking and confronting. It was the first indication for many people of the reach of Australia’s harsh migration laws. They could be applied not just against boat people from the Middle East or Asians working here illegally but against a European woman who had a child with an Australian man.

Three years later, and after the Cornelia Rau and Vivian Alvarez Solon cases, we are much wiser about the workings and culture of the Department of Immigration. At the time the plight of the Russian woman was becoming known, Alvarez Solon had already been deported to the Philippines. And since then there has been a cavalcade of examples; families being separated, detained and deported. Almost weekly, a new case emerges, each one harrowing for the people involved, each administratively complicated. The ones that reach the media are generally the desperate cases, the ones where public exposure and, hopefully, public outcry are the last chance for good outcomes. On the whole, the supporters of these families – the teams of advocates, lawyers and migration agents, try to work with the department and the courts behind the scenes. Going to the media is the last resort.

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