Racism and arrogance are surely two sides of the same coin; are they really? Probably my guess on the outcome from a toss of an unbiased coin is as good as yours considering rules of basic probability and statistics, especially one relating to mutually exclusive events; right? Well, ” kom with me, me kugoo posta … to discover where johnny is…” – Yemi Alade’s video clip in Johnny.
In this episode, it should be recalled that during this period of my tribulation in the hands of unscrupulous Australian commonwealth officials, Kevin Rudd was the Prime Minister of the Australian government. I understand Kevin Rudd also had served abroad as a diplomat as well as an Ambassador at some point in his career.
Just a brief refreshing from previous episodes. During the first interview with the delegate of the Minister for DIAC as reflected in Part 1 of my earlier posts, it turned out some critical documentary evidence wasn’t dispatched to the Minister’s delegate by Australian commonwealth officers as required. A situation that was clearly beyond my control. Nonetheless, my two children and I had to bear the brunt of someone’s deliberate failure to act appropriately under the circumstances. And surely we bore it.
Under the Australian migration act, the fact that a delegate decision had been made to the effect ‘Australia does not owe my two children and I any protection’ under the circumstances as understood from relevant convention, the decision meant I had to challenge the matter at an independent review tribunal. Thus, after receiving the necessary referrals from some reputable institutions, I was able to secure the services of a migration agent, a Mr Peter Steele.
During my first appointment with Mr Steele, he briefed me he had prior to his private practice as a Migration Agent worked at the Department of Foreign And Trade. That he had also served abroad at Australian foreign missions in addition to having had a brief stint at the then Department of Immigration And Citizenship (DIAC) later in life. I trusted the fact that I had secured the services of one of the most experienced Migration Agent around. Mr Steele offered to attend to my case without prior payment of the requisite fees. This was on the understanding I would settle the bill with him once my circumstances improved and the case finalized. What a considerate individual he was, I thought. I had no reason to not trust him to represent me as my immigration advisor considering his vast experience with the attendant issues of my application for asylum.
After I had presented details of my case to him as well as filled in all necessary documentation and other relevant paperwork relating to the nomination, Mr Peter Steele took over the case as my representative. What transpired afterwards during this process is a piece of history best narrated from a soft copy of record of events as appended below:
RECORD OF EVENTS FOLLOWING COMMUNICATION FROM GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS ON THE DECISION OF THE RRT
- I received a phone call from my Case Officer at the Australian Red Cross informing me of the decision of the Refugee Review Tribunal (RRT). She went ahead to inform that benefits from the Australian Red Cross to my family and I have henceforth been stopped.
- A few minutes later, my Case Officer at DIAC (Ms Lisa Minami), Canberra phoned to enquire on whether I was aware of the decision from RRT w.r.t. my application for review. I informed her that I was not aware of that decision, as my Migration Agent, Mr Peter Steele of Peter Steel Migration Services, has not communicated it to me. She informed that this decision was faxed to my Migration Agent on 09/01/09.
- I informed my Case Officer that my numerous attempts to contact my Migration Agent by phone during the period December 2008/January 2009 had proved futile as no one picked up the phone or called back in response to my voicemail messages.
- She briefed me of the attendant procedure involving the IOM and informed that my Bridging Visa would be expiring on 06/02/2009.
- Subsequently, I informed my Family Support Worker from Communities @ Work, who had provided me with family support and assistance, of the events at 1 and 2 above. She then tried to contact my Migration Agent on 15/01/09 but only managed to get his Assistant. She briefed me of this success and informed that the Assistant would get in touch with me shortly. She did. Jennifer informed me that she could not trace my file and that Peter Steele was out of town. She informed she would get him to contact me when he reports to work on 20/01/09.
- On 20/01/09, I waited for a good part of the morning for Mr Peter Steele to contact me w.r.t. the communication of the decision from RRT.
- I later in the afternoon phoned him, where he informed me that “just like any other person” he was away on holiday during the festive season. He then asked me whether I had received the decision on my application from the RRT, which I had expected to reach me through him.
- I asked him whether he had dispatched to the RRT the additional information and documents I had sent him in Nov./Dec. 2008. He answered in the affirmative and said that he was going to send me the decision of the RRT by post. He also informed that for more information on options available to me, I should directly contact DIAC as he no longer intended to represent me in the matter.
- Later that afternoon, I received a phone call from my Case Officer at DIAC. She informed that she wanted to schedule a meeting at my residence to inform me on matters regarding my situation. She later came to my residence and interrogated me on various issues including accommodation arrangement vis-à-vis rent payment. In the circumstances, I was unable to discuss much with her on issues relating to the decision of the RRT.
- I then showed the Case Officer a letter dated 15/01/09 from DIAC, Melbourne captioned “Refugee Review Tribunal (RRT) Post Decision Fee”. The letter had given two options that may be available to me following the decision of the RRT. The Case Officer discussed these options with me and undertook to contact my Migration Agent w.r.t. the communication of the decision of the RRT the following day.
- The Case Officer from DIAC called me around 1400Hrs and asked whether I had received the decision from my Migration Agent. She informed that she had tried to contact him during the day but was unsuccessful. She then asked me what I had decided as my next course of action w.r.t. the options available to me. I informed her that although I had still not received copy of the decision, I had opted to write to the Minister to seek Ministerial Intervention on the matter.
- The Case Officer informed me that chances for me to get approval from the Minister were near zero and that ultimately I would, nevertheless, have to prepare to leave the country.
- The Case Officer went on to inform me of the merits and demerits of leaving the country willingly or being removed forcefully vis-à-vis the impact on future applications for entry visa to Australia; that in view of the financial hardship I was experiencing vis-à-vis the fact that I have no work rights – in addition to the fact that the Minister’s Intervention would take long to be approved – it would be “to my best interest” to return to Kenya “in good time”. True, I don’t have the means to hire a Solicitor to represent me in Court.
- At that point, I informed the Case Officer that my fear of returning back to Kenya was real and that I would rather pursue Ministerial Intervention than expose my family and myself to anticipated harm on returning to Kenya. However, on second thoughts arising from the emphatic tone of my Case Officer at DIAC and on further advice from legal humanitarian organizations that I could as well represent myself in court, I changed my mind and personally filed an application at the Federal Magistrates Court of Australia to seek judicial review.
After this event, I made a formal complaint to the department of immigration via my case manager vide appended soft copy below:
RRT file number: 0807641
23 January 2009
Department of Immigration and Citizenship,
GPO Box 717 Canberra ACT 2601,
3 Lonsdale Street,
Fax No.: (02) 6247 3309
(Attn: Lisa Minami, Case Manager)
RE: FORMAL COMPLAINT ON THE CONDUCT OF STEELE MIGRATION SERVICES
I would like to make a formal complaint regarding the unprofessional conduct of STEELE MIGRATION SERVICES, which has led to disenfranchising me of a chance to be heard in an interview at the Refugee Review Tribunal.
I formally nominated Mr Peter Steele of the Steele Migration Services to represent me as my ADVISER on 9 November 2008 as indicated on a copy of enclosed Section C of document “Application for Review R1”. After forwarding of my application to the RRT for review of DIAC’s decision to refuse the grant of a protection visa, Mr Peter Steele sent me by post RRT’s acknowledgement of receipt of my application. I immediately dispatched to him additional information and documents, which he was supposed to forward to the RRT just in case the outcome of the review of DIAC’s file on the matter called for this course of action.
I learnt in the evening of 21/01/2009 after receiving on this date from Mr Peter Steele a copy of the RRT decision on my case that he had not forwarded the extra information and documents as agreed and as demanded by the RRT. In addition, I learnt from RRT’s decision that I was supposed to appear for an interview on 05/01/2009 at the RRT, which Mr Peter Steele had not informed me about. My numerous phone calls to Mr Peter Steele’s Office during the period December 2008 – 19 January 2009 for follow-up went unanswered and my voicemail messages unattended. These actions have created the wrong impression by portraying me as a person who did not care or bother to respond to RRT’s correspondences as well as attend the scheduled interview. Subsequently, my right and chance to fair treatment and hearing in this matter was gravely jeopardized.
I also came to learn on the 23/01/2009 that materials faxed to my ADVISER as early as 01/12/2008 by the RRT had not been forwarded to me for my necessary action. This was after I went to Mr Peter Steele’s Office to collect my documents after he had indicated to me by phone on 20/01/2009 that he did not intend to represent me any longer and that for further queries I should directly contact DIAC. These materials included a brochure – “What is a hearing” and a form – “Response to Hearing Invitation”. On this same day, Mr Peter Steele could not produce or explain what had happened to my draft-working document, which contained information that was to be presented to the RRT together with the additional documents on finalization.
I trusted and relied on an Australian for advice. Mr Peter Steele had earlier informed me he had 40 years experience as a public servant and therefore understood well the attendant regulations. Consequently, errors of omission and commission by STEELE MIGRATION SERVICES in the handling of my case should certainly not condemn my children and I to death as they are neither of my own making nor imagination.
I, therefore, request that my file at the RRT be opened to accord me a hearing as well as enable for fairness and justice to prevail.
Elijah Hiribae Malibe
c.c.: The Refugee Review Tribunal
GPO Box 1333
SYDNEY, NSW 2001
Fax No.: (02) 9276 5599
From this point onwards, my journey to the public library to study the Australian Migration Act had commenced in earnest. My trust of individuals I interacted with also took a heavy beating. Such are the challenges of life.
To this end, once again should I live to see another day, I surely would continue from here. Today is my son’s birthday.