Two, vastly different ways to report on asylum seekers

Today’s Murdoch-owned Daily Telegraph in Sydney leads with this “exclusive”, deliberately designed to make readers angry towards these supposedly greedy refugees:

Buying cigarettes and tobacco for immigration detainees is costing taxpayers more than $1.4 million a year. While the federal government spends millions on anti-smoking campaigns, the cost of keeping up detainees’ habits costs about $4000 a day.

The Opposition accused the government of providing its own “mini-stimulus” package for the tobacco industry.

Detainees earn points in the immigration detention system worth up to $50 a week by participating in education and activity programs. They then use points to purchase items, including cigarettes and tobacco products or phone cards.

The tobacco costs were released in an answer provided by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship to a question asked by Liberal senator Michaelia Cash in senate estimates hearings.

It revealed the company that manages the detention centres, Serco, has spent on average $1.4 million a year on tobacco products for detainees since the 2009-10 financial year when the number of detainees began to steadily increase. It provided a list of the favourite brands of cigarettes preferred by detainees.

They included Winfield Red and Blue, Peter Jackson Original, Marlboro, Longbeach, Champion, Gudang Garam, Ventti rolling papers and filters and tube machines.

“The products stocked at each facility vary slightly depending on the cohort of people detained at that facility,” the department said.

“It is important to remember that immigration detention is administrative, not punitive. People in immigration care are not being punished and have access to everyday items that are available to the public. Quit information and support products are available.”

Yes, clearly the most important story of the day.

Meanwhile, a real newspaper, like the UK Guardian, highlights the consistent failures of privatised “care” in Britain:

A police investigation has been launched into an alleged assault on a Nigerian asylum seeker in front of her three young children on a plane bound for Italy.

The alleged incident occurred just two weeks after the launch of the government’s new family-friendly removal policy. The family are one of the first to be detained under the new arrangements.

The woman, Faith, 39, said six of the eight escorts on the flight beat her on the arms and legs, twisted her hand and put hands around her neck. She said she was left spitting blood and had still not recovered.

Her claims have raised concerns among human rights campaigners about the treatment of asylum seeker families during the revamped removals process.

Faith and her three children, aged four, six and eight, were taken by surprise when they were arrested by a group of 10 to 12 uniformed officers in a 5.30am raid at their home in Birmingham on 19 September and driven to the government’s new secure pre-departure accommodation at Pease Pottage near Crawley, West Sussex – an experience which Faith said terrified them all.

“I feel so bad. Why have all these things happened to me?” said Faith, who has asked for her surname not to be revealed. “When they came to arrest us at 5.30am at our home in Birmingham, they kept banging on the door. The children were very upset and were crying. They wouldn’t even allow me any privacy to wash myself in the bathroom before we left.”

Reliance took over the contract to escort immigration detainees from G4S in May of this year. The company declined to comment. Its website states: “Reliance will oversee the safe custody and welfare of detainees.”

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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