Dutton describing refugees as Armani-clad ‘absurd beyond belief’

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has taken aim at the first group of refugees to leave Australia’s offshore detention centres for resettlement in the United States.

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Sydney radio host Ray Hadley put to the minister during a regular interview on Thursday that a photograph of the group published by News Corp this week looked like a fashion show on a catwalk in Paris or New York.

“Somebody once said to me the world’s biggest collection of Armani jeans and handbags was up on Nauru waiting for people to collect it when they depart,” Mr Dutton told 2GB radio.

More than 50 refugees this week left offshore detention on Manus Island and Nauru for a new life in the US.

‘Enjoying themselves’

Mr Dutton, asked about an image of those preparing to depart Port Moresby, said a lot of people who ended up in the island camps had not come from war-ravaged areas but were instead economic refugees.

They’d received “an enormous amount of support” from Australian taxpayers for a long time.

“We have been taken for a ride, I believe, by a lot of the advocates and people within Labor and the Greens who want you to believe this is a terrible existence,” Mr Dutton said.

“These photos demonstrate otherwise. People have seen other photos in recent weeks of those up on Manus out enjoying themselves outside this centre, by the beach and all the rest of it.”

Mr Dutton said he had long predicted once people were off Manus Island and Nauru “they’ll start to tell a very different story about how it wasn’t that bad”.

“There is a very different scenario up on Nauru and Manus than people want you to believe,” he said.

‘Lack of understanding’

Amnesty International labelled the comments extremely irresponsible.

“They also show a complete lack of understanding of the refugee convention,” refugee co-ordinator Graham Thom said in a statement.

He suggested Mr Dutton is putting at risk the opportunity for vulnerable and traumatised refugees to be safely resettled in the US.

“It is absolutely despicable that Peter Dutton would risk that by downplaying the acute vulnerability of these refugees at a time when the US is looking to cut its humanitarian program to its lowest level in over a decade,” he said.

The refugees arrived in Australian waters years ago and were transferred to offshore detention under a strict government policy to block anyone who arrived by boat from entering the country.

They were recently cleared by US authorities for resettlement under a deal struck between the former Obama administration and the Turnbull government.

Up to 1,250 refugees are expected to be resettled in the US.

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Kurds living in Australia celebrate independence vote amid fears for loved ones abroad

Days after 93 per cent of voters showed their support for independence, the Kurdish community in Australia have celebrated the country’s break from Iraq.

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Kurds gathered in Sydney on Wednesday night at an event organised by the community with live entertainment, including traditional music and dancing.

Kurdish Lobby Australia is a not-for-profit association that helps individuals and groups in and outside Australia.

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Co-chairman Zirian Fatah told SBS World News the celebrations had been a long time coming.

“It’s a 100-year-old argument that’s been continually fought, we no longer wish to go through the route of war,” Mr Fatah said.

“We believe if the Iraqi Prime Minister has the good intention, we can be good neighbours and it can be resolved through dialogue peacefully.”

The Iraqi government on Thursday escalated its confrontation with its northern Kurdish region, vowing to shut down Kurdistan’s airspace, borders and oil exports.

“Because they’ve already threatened war, the closing of our airports, closing of our borders, we don’t think that it’s a constructive way forward. The way to have dialogue is to sit down on the table and not make threats,” Mr Fatah said.

Kurds in Erbil celebrate after the announcement of the results of the independence referendum.AAP

The Australian representative of Kurdistan National Congress, Ismet Tastan, says he is concerned for the welfare of family and friends abroad.

“It was a bit shocking for us,” Mr Tastan said.

“We’re told it was going to be a peaceful process.

“I spoke to my mum yesterday, and she says all my family, her side of the family and our neighbours are really concerned, and they expect the international community to support Kurdish people.”

Mr Tastan said it could be too soon for celebrations here in Australia.

“We don’t know how it’s going to end,” he said.

“We are living in Australia and we don’t want to cause trouble living here.”

Despite pressure from the Iraqi government, Mr Fatah says nothing will halt their celebrations and their support for Kurdish independence.

Kurdish Lobby Australia and members of the Democratic Kurdish Community Centre are calling for Australian backing.

“We sincerely hope that the Australian government and the international community can support Kurdistan in their efforts of achieving independence,” Mr Fatah said.

SBS World News has contacted the Iraqi community for comment. 

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Ryanair has a day to sort out compensation

Ryanair has been ordered by the UK’s aviation regulator to sort out compensation for hundreds of thousands of travellers hit by mass flight cancellations by 5pm on Friday.

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The Civil Aviation Authority instructed the budget airline to tell passengers they are entitled to be re-routed by another carrier and explain how that will work.

Ryanair must also publicly state it will reimburse expenses for affected customers, according to a letter from the CAA.

In addition, the Dublin-based carrier must commit to helping passengers who chose an unsuitable option as a result of being misled.

It comes after the regulator accused the airline of “not complying with the law” over its handling of the fiasco.

CAA chief executive Andrew Haines said he was “furious” after Ryanair cancelled an extra 18,000 flights for the winter season on Wednesday – a move that will hit 400,000 customers.

“They are not making it clear to people their entitlement,” Haines told BBC Radio 4’s Today program.

“If they follow through on what they are saying, then they would be breaking the law.”

A Ryanair spokesman said the company will meeting with the CAA and comply fully with its requirements.

The latest round of cancellations adds to mounting anger against Ryanair, which was already coming under heavy fire after cancelling up to 50 flights a day earlier this month.

Ryanair says the cancellations were brought about because of an error with pilot holiday rosters.

Passengers have expressed their frustration with the airline, with many left out of pocket due to a lack of alternative flights and accommodation bookings they can no longer use.

Haines said airline passengers are “well-protected by the law”.

“They are entitled to compensation and if there is a cancellation, they are entitled to be re-routed by other airlines.

“The chief executive of Ryanair (Michael O’Leary) has gone on record and said he is not going to do that. He then issued a clarification.

“But yesterday when they announced 18,000 further cancellations, they failed to follow through on that.

“We are furious they are not complying with the law and they are not giving customers what they are entitled to.”

The regulator could take legal action against the airline for breaching consumer protection laws.

It says Ryanair has falsely claimed it did not have to re-route passengers on other airlines, particularly when there are no other services available.

The CAA also accused the airline of stopping short of providing details on its obligations to refund additional expenses incurred by passengers as a result of cancellations including for meals, hotels and transfer costs.

North Korean firms in China ordered to close

The ministry said the companies, including joint ventures with Chinese firms, have 120 days to close from the date the United Nations resolution was adopted, September 11.

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The announcement comes days after China confirmed that it will apply another major part of the sanctions: a limit on exports of refined petroleum products to North Korea starting October 1 and a ban on textiles from its neighbour.

China’s application of UN sanctions is particularly biting for North Korea. Beijing is Pyongyang’s main ally and trading partner, responsible for around 90 percent of the hermit nation’s commerce.

The United States has pressed China to use its economic leverage to strongarm North Korea into giving up its nuclear ambitions.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will visit Beijing this weekend for talks with China’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, and Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

Tillerson will discuss the North Korean nuclear tensions, trade issues and President Donald Trump’s planned trip to China in November, the US State Department said.

Trump’s tour will also take in regional allies Japan and South Korea.

‘Abyss of misery’ 

Washington has alternated between criticising and praising Beijing’s role in the North Korea crisis, on the one hand welcoming its support for new sanctions but also insisting it must do more to rein in its unruly neighbour.

For its part, China has called on both Trump and North Korean strongman Kim Jong-Un to tone down their increasingly bellicose rhetoric and instead try to begin peace talks.

0:00 Probablility of war between US and NKorea highest in three years: experts Share Probablility of war between US and NKorea highest in three years: experts

“We are opposed to any war on the Korean peninsula, and the international community will never allow a war (which would) plunge people into an abyss of misery,” foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a regular press briefing.

“Sanctions and the promoting of talks are both the requirements of the UN Security Council. We should not overemphasise one aspect while ignoring the other,” Lu said.

While China has imposed sanctions on its renegade neighbour, it wants to avoid precipitating the regime’s downfall over fears that its collapse could send an influx of refugees across its border and place the US army at its doorstep.

But Beijing appears to be running out of patience with North Korea’s nuclear antics — the last test earlier this month triggered an earthquake that was felt in northeast China.

Branches of China’s biggest banks have told AFP that they have suspended financial transactions for North Koreans, a measure that is not required under UN sanctions.

Australian jihadist Prakash, on trial in Turkey, ‘regrets joining IS’

Neil Prakash, who was detained one year ago inside Turkey close to the Syrian border, is jailed in the Gaziantep region of southern Turkey.

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However, his trial, which got under way earlier this year, is being held in the neighbouring Kilis region with Prakash being cross-examined via video link.

In his testimony, Prakash said he said received training from IS in their de-facto capital of Raqqa in Syria before moving north to the town of Kobane to fight Kurdish militia.

He was wounded in the fighting and then requested to be moved to another area where he did not have to fight.

“But I went to Raqqa and was told I had to fight,” he said, quoted by the Turkish-language Dogan news agency. “I was also made to speak in propaganda videos.

“I decided to escape after seeing the true face” of IS, he added. “I very much regret joining the organisation,” he said.

Prakash denied being the Australian “representative” of IS in Syria and asked to be released and deported to a Muslim country and not Australia. However the court decided to keep him in custody, Dogan news agency said.

The trial was adjourned to an unspecified later date.

Australia last year had asked Turkey to extradite Prakash, who Canberra previously had reported as having been killed in a US airstrike in northern Iraq.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has called Prakash the senior Australian operative in IS. He was reportedly on a list of high-value IS recruiters targeted by the US in drone attacks in Iraq.

Prakash told the court he had spent his early life in Cambodia in a Buddhist family but had decided to become a Muslim after watching IS videos.

Turkey had been under fire from its allies for not taking a hard enough line against jihadists on its territory but stepped up arrests from 2015 after a string of terror attacks.