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Australia: Kenyan women refused refugee status

Teresia and Grace Two Kenyan women are facing deportation from Australia after their asylum applications were rejected, despite risks that they may suffer forced genital mutilation if they are sent home.

According to an article in Australian newspaper, The Age, Grace Gichuhi, 22, and Teresia Ndikaru Muturi, 21, arrived in Australia in July last year on tourist visas for World Youth Day.

There have been few reactions to the case from most of the political blogosphere regulars in Australia. Climate change and economic stimulus strategies have dominated in the last week.

But the article on The Age has attracted 54 comments from online readers showing anything but popular disinterest. The comments represent opposite poles of opinion, including:

Let these women stay.

Ben | Adelaide – September 22, 2009, 9:30AM

They applied. Their applications were assessed. Their applications were refused.
Send them home.
Case closed.

David_T – September 22, 2009, 9:34AM

How pathetic that these two women should be refused asylum. Australia could do well to have more people like these two girls and as far as I'm concerned they're welcome here for as long as they wish.

jollysroger | Townsville – September 22, 2009, 10:22AM

On her blog, at Pocket Carnival, Penny Eager says she was moved to write to the Minister for Immigration & Citizenship, Chris Evans on his online contact page, expressing her outrage:

I have just heard of the case of Grace Gichuhi & Teresia Ndikaru Muturi, two women from Kenya who have been denied status as refugees.

I believe that the torturous practise of genital mutilation is abhorrent, and that to deny these women refugee visas is to take a weak stance on this issue.

I urge you to intervene in this case, not only to help these women, but also to send a clear message to Kenya that Australia does not condone these practises.

A religious issue?

Aussie News and Views a self-styled “American, Australian, Israeli, British ‘Judeo-Christian Friendly’ blog” posted a video of a news clip about the women and asked:

Gee I wonder who could be behind this? what sort of Satan worshipping Death Cult could be alive and well in Kenya today that would do such a thing to young women?

Philip Maguire at Whaddya Reckon? drew a number of comments with his post:

TWO Kenyan Christian women are to be deported from Australia despite facing death or genital mutilation.

Maybe they should have arrived here cashed up via a boat from Indonesia.

Lisa Valentine of Embrace Australia, an online community for foreign nationals looking to live in Australia, also took up their case:

Both Grace and Teresia are now terrified of what fate will lie in wait for them if they are deported back to Kenya.

A spokesman from the Australian Immigration Department said: “Under the refugee convention, they weren’t found to engage with Australia’s international obligations.

The girls, along with Sister Aileen Crowe, a Franciscan nun who is supporting them, launched an appeal to the Australian Immigration Minister, Chris Evans, but he rejected that appeal. A second appeal has now been launched and the girls are awaiting the results but have been told to prepare for deportation.

Ironically new legislation is due to be introduced to Parliament that would ensure protection for the girls. The legislation is called Complementary Protection and it expands the criteria under which a refugee can apply for protection.


Online campaign

On Facebook a ‘Causes’ page titled Help save these Women from Genital Mutilation has been launched by Australians who support the women's attempt to stay in Australia. So far, 91 people have joined. An update was posted on Tuesday by Vanessa Muradian:

This is the most recent update – sources said these women are protected here in Australia — until Evans decides what to do with them. Whether he rejected them or not the first time we are still to know… the government need to pass the complimentary visa… which I am further researching at the moment – Basically the complimentary visa, will ‘compliment’ the protection visa, SO THAT THESE refugees can fall under a protection visa. CURRENTLY the protection visa doesn't protect women from GENITAL MUTILATION and honour killings. The bill was proposed to parliament in September and currently the Liberal party are opposing this bill…

Right now these women just need our support – Minister Evans will be making the decision with his privilege of Ministerial Intervention.

I guess we need to contact him…

As well as other governing bodies whom can help the government pass the complimentary bill!!!!!!!

  • http://lebanesechess.blogspot.com Antoun Issa

    What a sad state of affairs.

    Our immigration policies are appalling. There appears to be little difference between the right-wing conservatism of the Howard era and the right-wing conservatism of Rudd.

    The Australian people have been duped into voting for a phony “progressive” when he is anything but.

    Colonial-era racism and xenophobia still underpin our political attitudes.

  • http://laborview.blogspot.com/ Kevin Rennie

    Antoun

    I can’t completely agree with you. There have been some good things from the Labor government in immigration such as the abolition of the temporary protection visas. If you believe the Opposition, the changes to refugee policies have caused the recent spike in boat arrivals.

    But going by many of the comments on the cited blogs, we have a long way to go in changing people’s attitudes.

  • unpredictable_mortal

    I am a little concern with the story towards the Australian audience. It is very clear that FMG is indeed an activity carried out in rural third world countries and it should be condemned and has been highly condemned by international humanitarian organisations as well as the international community. However, are their claims to be true, we still have no clear understanding to it.

    If you were to read the article in The Age thoroughly, you will come to understand that the theme revolving around the article was ‘what Australia DIDN’T do and what Australia SHOULD do’… what about the credibility of what these women said? All they did was go on and on about how painful it is, which the world knows already! How about, why they choose Australia for refugee when there are closer countries, for instance, the UK. Have they appeal in their own courts? Have they seek for a lawyer in their own country to fight their case? Surely they have humanitarian lawyers in Kenya. Afterall, Kenya is a rather developed country than a few of the war-torn countries in the African continent.

    Another thing i would like to point out is that they arrived, with their own money, to Australia on a tourist visa. Now, that really means a lot. Not like a few thousands who arrived to see the pope on Youth Day illegally, they arrived legally to this country. What i don’t understand is that, their case are well fought in their own country. They have a government, they have international organisations busting their arses off trying to prevent FMG from spreading and they are eligible to appeal in their own court. It might be that the reason why their visa to stay to seek refugee in Australia was not granted was due to their proclamation which was unable to be substantiated.

    IF they were to be granted a visa, then why not allow thousands and thousands of FMG victims or to-be victims to seek refuge in Australia? Before anyone should condemn Chris Evans for his decisions, let there be transparency to these women’s claims and then I will highly support the need for protection… but a ‘MAY suffer from FGM’ does not really give credit to why these women should stay in Australia.

  • MHS

    It is obvious that the two girls came to Australia for economic reasons , They took a tourist visa and over stayed applying for political asylum . It has become now a routine practice that most of the immigrants use this trick and always try to attract public sympathy by showing causes like threats of political vindictiveness , genital mutilation etc. against them if they are turned back to their home countries . These are mostly excuses they cite ,but the main reasons of their stay is the economic reason. Most of the cases are falsely built . I guess they should go back to their country and fight for their right . In that case the international blogers forum and wide civil society can also join their cause and fight for , which, to my views, has a greater chance of success in bringing a change to these barbaric customs in the twenty first century.

  • http://lebanesechess.blogspot.com Antoun Issa

    Kevin,

    Whilst I’ll definitely concede that the Rudd government is a much better option than what we experienced under the Howard regime for 11 years, Rudd has disappointed the many expectations voters had of him.

    He’s certainly no Obama. But that discussion would lead us outside of the topic here, which is this refugee case.

    Unpredictable_mortal, MHS,

    Australia is a signatory to the refugee conventions of the UN, and therefore we are obliged to process the cases of all asylum seekers that arrive on our shores. If they are proved to have legitimate concerns to remain, then they remain.

    The problem with Australia’s immigration and refugee policy for the past 13 years is that it hasn’t lived up to UN standards, with the UN and NGOs sharply criticising us on this very issue on a number of occasions.

    We all know what happened under the Howard regime, where legitimate refugees were sent back to their troublesome countries, and a number of them subsequently died.

    So whilst I agree that thorough investigation into the legitimacy of asylum claims needs to be done, do you really trust our own political process to thoroughly assess these applications by UN standards, considering that for over the past decade we haven’t? I don’t think so.

    It is irrelevant where asylum seekers come from, if they are legitimate asylum seekers, we are obliged to accept them. That is the international convention we have signed up to.

    Our intake of refugees is significantly less than other Western countries, and again much much more less than developing and neighbouring countries to conflict zones.

    We make the process difficult to deter asylum seekers. And Kenya is not a “more” developed country than other African states, just last year there were serious clashes that left hundreds of people dead.

  • Meg

    It seems the real question here is the “letter of the law.” To the degree that their claims of imminent FMG awaits them upon return, we have no way of substantiating without researching customs and practices in Kenya. Their own families may support this whether or not the girls are willing or the government agrees. Would you want to return if you thought there was a chance of that happening to you? At what point does the letter of the law have authority over personal rights?

  • thomasjasen

    Wow Guys!
    Because of what one of your officials said about President Obama. I thought all you guys were born racist. Thanks for disproving the international rumors that Aussies are down under rednecks, who like white South Africans in the U.S.racist and culturally inherent bias to the states and continue to subject African-Americans to second class status.

  • okoti simon

    As kenyan i wish to state clear that there is no such practice,and if it were then it is in avery remote place secretly done.
    The goverment of kenya does not support that in full force.
    This are my fellow citizen after economic reasons,but they should not spoil the good name of kenya,its an ucceptable.
    Make atrip to kenya and you will agree with me.
    Thank you all.

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  • kenya

    I Live and work in Kenya where i don’t know a single person who has had FGM performed on them or someone who is at risk! These girls are out to get public sympathy. It happens to the remotest parts of the country and anyone at risk would not afford to go visiting other countries.

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