From: Project SafeCom <>
Subject: ACTION ITEM: Help with catching The Illegals
Date: Tue, 13 Jan 2004 15:47:59 +0800

Dear Project SafeCom News subscribers,

A new, and seriously important opportunity has developed to "nail down"
journalists and writers in Australia who engage in forms of distorting the
facts in relation to refugees and asylum seekers.


As the documents, reproduced below, clarify, the UK Press Complaints
Commission (PCC, item 2) recently issued new Guidelines for journalistic
behaviour relating to writing about refugees and asylum seekers in the UK

The PCC identified the use of the term "illegal", "illegal immigrant" or
"illegal asylum seeker", and stated that the use of this terminology is
erroneous in the context of asylum claimants' rights under the UN Refugee
Convention and as such constitute a Breach of the PCC clauses of "accuracy"
in reporting.


In Australia, a Perth-based refugee advocate recently wrote to the
Australian equivalent of the British PCC, the Australian Press Council
(APC), seeking to ensure similar action from APC in response to the
Australian press.

The Australian Press Council replied to him (see item 1 below) stating that
it would only develop such a policy in response to "complaints received"
from the public.


This is where our opportunity resides. Your action is needed, and in this,
YOU WILL PLAY AN ESSENTIAL ROLE in building the momentum so sorely needed in
Australia towards the issuing of new guidelines from the Australian Press

The use of the terms "illegal", "illegal immigrant" or "illegal asylum
seeker" and "unauthorised arrival" is erroneous: under the UN Refugee
Convention also those who enter "on their own initiative" have the right to
claim asylum, whether they arrive by plane, boat, container or in a dinghy,
with or without valid identity papers.

In addition, but this is just my personal view: under pressure and with the
debatable "leadership" of the Howard government and its ministers, sitting
members and candidates, before, during and since the last Federal election,
the use of this type of terminology deliberately sought to mislead the
Australian public about Australia's obligations to asylum seekers under the
UN Refugee Convention, because the refugee convention was written and
developed precisely to pre-empt this type of 'arriving' in a country.

Please take up this opportunity, use one letter for each article or item,
name the journalist, and write a letter of complaint to the Australian Press

Address details:

Australian Press Council
Policy Development
Suite 10.02, 117 York Street
Sydney NSW 2000
Tel: (02) 9261 1930
Fax: (02) 9267 6826


By way of example: you may want to start by writing to the Australian Press
Council about the new book "Beyond the Razor Wire", written by a former
Curtin and Woomera ACM staff member, Sandy Thorne.

The cover of the new book proudly states: "The true story of a detention
officer's experiences at Woomera and Curtin's Illegal Immigrant Camps and at
a Queensland Maximum Security Prison".



See the Medialens Article on our website:

This page will soon also contain this message and more resources.


Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
P.O. Box 364
Narrogin WA 6312

1. Letter from the Australian Press Council
|- Australian Press Council
|- Suite 10.02, 117 York Street
|- Sydney NSW 2000
|- Tel: (02) 9261 1930
|- Fax: (02) 9267 6826
|- email:
|- internet:
|- Chairman
|- Professor Ken McKinnon
|- Executive Secretary
|- Jack R. Herman
|- 19 December 2003
|- "Name Deleted"
|- "Address Street 99"
|- "TOWN PC 9999"
|- Dear Name Deleted
|- At its December meeting the Australian Press Council's
|- Policy Development Committee considered your letter
|- of 12 November.
|- It noted the actions taken by the UK PCC but determined that no
|- such action was required by the Press Council at this time.
|- The Council generally acts on the basis of specific complaints
|- and, in the absence of such complaints about particular examples
|- of the Australian press misrepresenting the bona fides of
|- asylum seekers and refugees, it was not prepared to issue
|- any guidelines on the matter.
|- It would be happy to review that decision in the light of
|- a specific complaint or complaints.
|- Yours sincerely
|- Jack R. Herman
|- Executive Secretary
|- [signed]

2. Report from UK Press Complaints Commission

Refugees and Asylum Seekers (use of the term "illegal")


Over the past few years, the Commission has received increasing numbers of
complaints - principally concerning discrimination - about the coverage of
issues relating to refugees and asylum seekers.

The clear majority of complaints - including those stemming from partisan
comment and campaigning - raise no breach of the Code of Practice.

However, one discrete group of complaints - which fall under the broad
banner of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Code - has led to a number of breaches,
and the Commission thought it useful to draw this issue to the attention of

Those breaches of the Code that have occurred - in a similar manner to the
issue of the reporting of mental health, about which the PCC issued guidance
in 1998 - appear largely to have arisen from misunderstandings about

The Commission is concerned that editors should ensure that their
journalists covering these issues are mindful of the problems that can occur
and take care to avoid misleading or distorted terminology. By way of
example, as an "asylum seeker" is someone currently seeking refugee status
or humanitarian protection, there can be no such thing in law as an "illegal
asylum seeker". A "refugee" is someone who has fled their country in fear of
their life, and may have been granted asylum under the 1951 Refugee
Convention or someone who otherwise qualifies for Humanitarian Protection,
Discretionary Leave or has been granted Exceptional Leave to Remain in the
country. An asylum seeker can only become an "illegal immigrant" if he or
she remains in the UK after having failed to respond to a removal notice.

Those groups set up to support and advocate on behalf of refugees and asylum
seekers can provide further clarification to journalists if required.

Editors are, of course, already aware that pejorative or irrelevant
reference to a person‹s race, religion, or nationality is already prohibited
under Clause 13 (Discrimination) of the Code. Similarly, the Commission - in
previous adjudications under Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Code - has
underlined the danger that inaccurate, misleading or distorted reporting may
generate an atmosphere of fear and hostility that is not borne out by the


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