International Journal of Anarchism
ifa-Solidaritet - folkebladet - © ISSN 0800-0220 no 1 (31) editor H. Fagerhus - e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org (IJA)
Bulletin of the Anarchist International
THE TAMPA CASE
I. August 2001
In August 2001 the Anarchy of Norway was once again in the headlines of the international newsmedia. Monday 03.09.2001 more than 400 mainly Afghan asylum seekers were on their way to Papua New Guinea on an Australian troop carrier after the Australian Government stuck to its authoritarian refusal to let them into the country. The group spent eight days stranded on the Norwegian freighter Tampa before being transferred to the HMAS Manoora. Once in Papua New Guinea, the refugees will travel to New Zealand and Nauru, where their asylum claims will be assessed. The three-hour transfer operation near Christmas Island began after an Australian court ruled that the refugees could be moved, pending a final ruling on whether Australia acted lawfully in refusing to accept them.
A civil liberties group lost its bid to stop the move, arguing that Australia is legally obliged to accept the refugees - something Prime Minister John Howard has refused to consider. He has come under strong international pressure to accept the refugees. Amid concerns that the Tampa could not make the long journey with hundreds of passengers on deck, Australia decided to transfer them to the Manoora, which is being escorted by a frigate. Australia will meet the costs of the operation, and has also agreed to take some of the refugees, if their claims are judged to be genuine. The Norwegian Anarchist Council has criticised the plan for dealing with the asylum seekers, saying it is not acceptable under international law. It said the best solution would have been to allow them ashore immediately, on Christmas Island, rather than make them endure more time at sea. The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, had also backed such a move, but UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has now accepted the Australian plan to transfer the refugees, despite reservations.
Clive Troy, Australia: So your readers may better understand: Australia's role in this "Tampa" incident is a nasty bit of political smoke generated by our Prime Minister to direct attention away from his continual policy failings as a Federal election nears. His xenophobia stance is in line with his past preaching about "keeping them out" and is horrible. His hard line inflexible position and that of his Immigration Ministers is a disgrace and a badge of cowardice that Australians will have to wear for a long time to come. Australian's treatment of Norwegian humanitarian rescue efforts is equally appaling (DN 05.09.01).
Brown Card from IAT-APT: Notoriously authoritarian spokesmen, reporters, etc., breaking the Oslo-convention of 1990 severely or several times, will receive a Brown Card from the Anarchist Press Tribunal as a symbol of free criticism... A Brown Card goes to Ragnar Kvam Junior and the editors of Dagsrevyen 28.08.2001 at the Norwegian State TV NRK for mixing up anarchy and anarchist conditions with the authoritarian tendencies connected to the refugees problem at the Norwegian ship Tampa outside Australia. Click on "Int. Anarchist Tribunal" at http://www.anarchy.no/anarchy/ for more information.
II. September - October 2001
20.09-05.10.2001: Afghan asylum seekers on the Pacific island of Nauru have been speaking of their anger at their treatment by the Australian Government and their fears of being forced to return home. The refugees are among a group of 433 who were refused entry to Australia earlier this month and then transported thousands of miles on board the troopship HMAS Manoora. One said they had left Afghanistan because they were being persecuted by the Taleban: "They are killing our people... because of religion," he said. The refugees said they were compelled to seek illegal entry to Australia because they had no legal means of seeking asylum there. Another said: "We are so unhappy about the Australian decision. It was not according to the book of human rights."
Australia agreed earlier this month to pay Nauru about $10m to house more than 500 of the asylum seekers while their claims are processed by officials from the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR). About 150 remaining refugees on board the Manoora will be flown to New Zealand for processing. A UNHCR spokeswoman said it would take several weeks to consider all the asylum applications. It is not clear what will happen to the refugees afterwards, whether they are rejected or accepted. There are two groups of asylum seekers: 1) 433 mainly Afghan refugees, originally rescued late last month from a sinking Indonesian ferry by the Norwegian vessel, the MV Tampa, 2) another 230, mainly Iraqi refugees, picked up nearly two weeks later. The UNHCR said at this stage it is only concerned with the applications of the refugees transferred from the Tampa to the Manoora.
The refugees at sea have been lucky. They were saved from drowning, and now New Zealand has volunteered to take some of them, while the rest can expect to have their cases examined on the Pacific island of Nauru. Refugee officials and others, including United Nations Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson, denounced Australia for a lack of compassion and openness. The number of asylum seekers arriving illegally on Australia's shores has risen to about 5,000 per year in recent years - a significant jump from the few hundred arriving five years ago. The issue was thrown centre stage in August when a Norwegian container ship, the Tampa, carrying more than 400 asylum seekers who had been rescued from a sinking Indonesian boat, was preventing from making land. Eventually Australia offered the small island nation of Nauru $20m (US$10m) in aid to process the boat people's asylum claims. Australian Prime Minister John Howard's tough stance over the boat-people boosted his ratings in the opinion polls ahead of this year's general election. In the wake of the Tampa crisis the Australian Government has stepped up its surveillance of Australian waters, recently intercepting a number of boats carrying hundreds of illegal immigrants and forcing them to Nauru.
15.10.2001: An Australian Navy ship has taken another 260 asylum seekers to the tiny Pacific island of Nauru to have their claims processed. The HMAS Tobruk dropped off two separate boatloads of people, picked up near the remote Australian territory of Ashmore Reef late last month. Under tough new rules Australia refused to let the asylum seekers into Australia. It struck a deal last month with Nauru - the world's smallest republic - to take the refugees in return for about $10m aid. Australia also agreed to pay the full costs of processing the asylum applications and housing the refugees in a hurriedly built detention camp. The new asylum seekers disembarked on Monday, said a spokesman for the Australian Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock. They included a baby boy, born on Sunday. A spokesman said mother and baby were healthy. They were checked on arrival and have joined the other asylum seekers in the camp. "Everybody's off, it's gone very smoothly," the spokesman said.
The new asylum seekers joined more than 500 Afghans, Iraqis and Palestinians who were taken to the island aboard the HMAS Manoora almost four weeks ago. The Afghan asylum seekers had been rescued in late August from a sinking Indonesian ferry by the Norwegian cargo ship "Tampa", and transferred to the Manoora. The Manoora then picked up the Iraqi and Palestinian asylum seekers on its way to Nauru. There was a diplomatic row between Norway and Australia over the fate of the Afghans. Since then, Australia has toughened its already strict asylum policy. It refused to let the Afghans, or any other asylum seekers, into Australia. Some were sent to New Zealand, but most were sent to Nauru, an barren island of about 11,000 people. Now, Australia is trying to find another location for yet another boatload of asylum seekers. It has been negotiating with a number of Pacific neighbours, including Kiribati, a chain of islands near Nauru. Mr Ruddock said he expected to announce soon where the 200 asylum seekers would be sent for processing.
20.10.2001: The Australian navy has intercepted another boat in the Indian Ocean carrying people seeking political asylum in Australia. The vessel, which has about 180 people on board, is moored in rough seas off the Australian territory of Christmas Island, but is expected to be escorted back to Indonesia when the weather improves. The BBC's Red Harrison in Sydney says most of those on board say they have fled Afghanistan, but Australian government policy is firm - no matter where they come from, they will not be allowed to land. The latest action comes a day after navy personnel boarded an Indonesian registered vessel with about 200 people on board and forced it to turn back to Indonesia. Until now, boat people have been picked up by the navy and transported to other Pacific nations where their asylum applications are processed. Australia is in the middle of a general election campaign and Prime Minister John Howard has seen his popularity rise dramatically since he first adopted a hardline policy in late August.
In the latest incident, an immigration official said the boat had persisted in coming into Australian waters despite warnings. "They mainly claim to be Afghans, but there is a smattering of other nationalities. The overwhelming majority are males," the official said. Mr Howard said the boatload of asylum seekers intercepted on Friday included a woman who had given birth just before the boat entered Australian waters. He said all the boat's occupants were given humanitarian aid. The crew of the Indonesian boat were warned by the boarding party from the HMAS Warramunga that they faced five-year jail sentences under the new anti-people smuggling legislation. The government has also recently passed border control laws which it says allow asylum seekers to be turned away from certain remote islands, such as Christmas Island. Human rights groups have criticised the changes, saying Australia's actions could place it in breach of its obligations under international human rights agreements. The Australian Government has approached several more Pacific nations asking if they will allow refugees to be landed on their territory while their asylum applications for entry to Australia are processed. Nauru - the world's smallest republic - has accepted about 800 refugees in return for about $10m aid. But the hurriedly constructed detention camp in the island's barren centre is thought to be at full capacity.
III. December 2001 - May 2002
December 2001: The crews delegate, the captain of Tampa, Arne Rinnan, has been decorated by Germans and the Norwegian symbolic king, but he said he was just doing his job and duty. After pressure from anarchists as well as others, the UN and IMO will go through the existing rules with purpose to clear up things, to make more clear rules on what to do in similar cases in the future.
January 2002: Australia has come under United Nations for its treatment of illegal immigrants. Canberra's regime for handling illegal arrivals is widely deemed to be one of the toughest in the world. Illegal immigrants are automatically detained in one of six prison-like centres spread across the country while their applications are examined, a process which can take up to five years. Unrest has broken out on several occasions at the detention centres. In the most recent incident at the Woomera camp in South Australia - on Migrants' Day itself - detainees demanding visas set alight buildings and pelted staff and firefighters with rocks. But Prime Minister John Howard's tough stance on immigration has earned him points among his electorate. His refusal to allow the Tampa, a Norwegian cargo ship packed with asylum seekers to dock may have earned him stinging criticism abroad, but the incident coincided with a resurgence in his popularity culminating in his recent general election win.
13.02.2002: Australia's prime minister John Howard denies that he gave orders to monitor communications on board the Norwegian ship "Tampa" during the boat refugee crisis last year. Captain Arne Rinnan is convinced otherwise. Nearly six months after the drama on the high seas off Christmas Island, when the "Tampa" was refused admission bearing 438 refugees rescued at sea, the controversy over the case and Australia's policies has become top news again. PM Howard denies giving orders to Australian intelligence (DSD) to spy on communication emanating from the Norwegian vessel. Captain Rinnan says he is sure that his telephones were monitored and he complained at the time to Australian soldiers who boarded the ship. Norway's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Conservative Jan Petersen, said he was surprised by the accusations and assumes that Australian authorities will examine the charges scrupulously. Norway's ambassador in Canberra, Ove Thorsheim, was meeting Wednesday with Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer. The new session of Australia's parliament was an uncomfortable occasion for PM Howard, with accusations that the government had monitored all telephone, telefax, and e-mail communications emanating from the "Tampa".
The opposition have accused the Howard government of exploiting espionage politically in the run up to the previous election. A key argument for the opposition parties is that the refugees aboard the "Tampa" hardly constituted a threat to national security, a necessary proviso for tapping phone calls. Australia's foreign minister insists that the government has no reason to apologize for its conduct, and that it is in the nation's interest to protect its borders. Howard said that the government had no need for special intelligence to know what served the nation in this instance. Captain Rinnan told ABC radio Wednesday that he had been suspicious from the start and that he heard noises and click on his telephone line when the ship lay off Christmas Island.
The Howard government faces other refugee-related crises. An independent investigation of another case just after the "Tampa" concluded that the government misinformed the public about the conditions aboard a ship hoping to land with refugees, and continued to mislead the public after it had received factual information from the Navy. The Howard government claimed that refugees in this case were throwing children overboard in order to have them rescued, and that such people were not welcome in Australia. This year Australian authorities will earmark over NOK 1 billion (USD 112 million) for its controversial 'Pacific solution' where arriving boat refugees will be sent to camps in smaller Pacific Island countries, where their asylum applications will be processed.
06.05.2002: Tampa captain meets refugees he saved. Norwegian ship captain Arne Rinnan met Monday with some of the refugees whose lives he saved when his ship, the Tampa, rescued undreds of mainly Afghan refugees from sinking near Australia's Christmas Island last August. Arne Rinnan, right, captain of the Norwegian vessel Tampa, is introduced to six-week-old Payman Hussain Merzai by her father Rajab Ali and mother Tahere. Arne Rinnan, left, is reunited with some of the young men he and his crew rescued from a sinking Indonesian boat in August 2001. The rescue operation ignited international debate when the Australian government, in a crackdown on suspected illegal immigrants, refused to allow the Tampa to enter Australian waters or dock in an Australian port. Capt. Arne Rinnan, 62, who was honored by the United Nations for his rescue operation, said he would not hesitate to mount a similar mission. "I would be doing exactly the same thing again," he told New Zealand's National Radio. "This is the law at sea - to assist or rescue people in distress - and that's what we were doing." "A human life is a human life, it doesn't matter what kind of shape and color and religion," said Rinnan, who is on his last voyage before retirement. Nearly 100 of the "Tampa refugees", carrying flowers and gifts, crowded into a marquee on the waterfront in the northern New Zealand port city of Auckland to meet their rescuer Monday. Among those on the waterfront was an 11-week old baby girl whose Afghan mother was pregnant when she was rescued by the Tampa.
RELEASE AND NOTE FROM THE
Anarchist International Embassy in Oslo
l'ambassade du monde libertaire
NO TO US ATTEMPT TO RULE, AND THUS DESTROY, THE ANARCHY OF THE OCEANS
06.05.2002: USA wants full access to Norwegian ships. In a secret approach to Norway the USA has asked for full authority to board Norwegian vessels suspected of connections to terrorism. Norway's state council refuses, but will discuss the matter. The USA already exercises extensive surveillance and checks over shipping in the waters of the Arabian Peninsula. Now the American government wants to expand its operations to include larger marine areas. The Norwegian state council has now been asked to allow the USA wide-ranging and general authority over their ships.
"Unacceptable!" - NACO, the Norwegian anarchist council says to IJ@ and AIE. The request has not been made public, but according to usually reliable sources the USA now wants to map and monitor international civil shipping. This desire would include the right to inspect, and in some cases board, Norwegian vessels suspected of being used to support terrorism. Other seafaring nations are believed to have received similar requests from the USA.
Foreign Minister Jan Petersen of the state council would neither confirm nor deny the US request to the Norwegian media, saying that he would not comment individual issues connected to the international battle against terrorism. Petersen said that, broadly speaking, "it is not an option to grant either the USA or others full authority to take control of Norwegian ships". "Of course not," the NACO spokesman says a bit irritated, "this is an illegitimate attempt to take authority over, and thus destroy, the Anarchy of the Oceans! To try to use the limited armed and other antiterrorist struggle as an excuse to rule the oceans must totally be rejected!" The Norwegian state council would require the ability to weigh each request to investigate a Norwegian vessel in international waters. "We can very well investigate our ships ourself, thank you. Have Bush & CIA developed totalitarian "KGB"-type paranoia?" NACO asks.
Petersen reportedly informed parliament's foreign committee that the USA request went well over the line of what could be accepted. Nevertheless, the state council promised to "enter a dialog" with the USA to see how far they could accommodate their ally. Expanded exchange of intelligence and new channels of cooperation have been mentioned, but these would require the cooperation of shipowners. "Dialog OK, US-rule on the oceans NIX! Long live the Anarchy of the Oceans", NACO, also entering the dialog, says. Also the "Tampa" captain agrees much with NACO in this matter. Arne Rinnan says clearly he is against USA as a world police.
The state council says it is willing to stretch itself to satisfy the USA, both to fight terrorism and due to the practical consideration that Norway is not well placed to intervene with force on the high seas. "Petersen could easily get overstretched in this matter", NACO says, warning Petersen of ruining the Anarchy of the Oceans. The UN Security Council last year encouraged all nations to step up their cooperation to fight terrorism. "Of course!" NACO says.
d'a. A. Quist
IV. June 2002 February 2003
20.06.2002. Arne Rinnan gets the Nansen Prize for helping refugees, i.e. the honor plus 100 000 US $.
17.02.2003. Arne Rinnan takes a job as ambassador for Norsk Folkehjelp, Norwegian People's Aid.
More news and information about the Anarchy of Norway, The International Anarchist Tribunal, etc. at the Anarchist International Information Service:
The lessons of the Genoa and Gothenburg, etc. events are discussed at:
The Tampa case is discussed at:
The situations before and after the Stortings election in Norway 2001 are discussed in IJA 2(31) and IJA 3(31), available at:
The 30th anniversary of IJ@ etc. is presented at
The situation in Argentina is discussed in IJA 6(31)
The economical political map used for analysis is presented at:
General information about the International Journal of Anarchism, the mandate and history, at:
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