20 September 2012

Controversial Dutch politician awaits Australia visa decision

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An extremely divisive and outspoken Dutch politician is waiting to hear whether he will be granted an Australia visa to speak at events in Sydney and Melbourne.

Australia visa

Far-right politician Geert Wilders is yet to discover whether he will be allowed to enter Australia.

Geert Wilders, leader of the Netherlands' right wing Party for Freedom, has been invited to give speeches at events in Sydney and Melbourne. Mr Wilders applied for an Australia visa three weeks ago; his staff was approved in days but the man himself is yet to hear back.

Mr Wilders is known the world over as an outspoken critic of Islam and what he calls the ‘islamification’ of Europe. He has labelled Islam an ideology, not a religion, and has called the Islamic prophet Muhammad a paedophile and a terrorist.

Mr Wilders was invited to share his views in Australia by the Q Society, a small anti-Islamic group of 'ordinary Australians who are concerned about the march of Islam into this country,' according to its spokesperson, Andrew Horwood.

"We are non-political, we are a secular organisation and we've seen what's happened in Europe and we're concerned about that," he added.

"Our charter is to educate the Australian population about what Australia will be like in 20 or 30 years' time with Islam if we choose not to understand it."

However, Mr Wilders' application has not yet been processed, something Mr Horwood says is concerning.

"We find it very strange that a visa is taking so long to come from a politician of a respected democracy. It should be an automatic thing. He's coming here to give the advantage of his knowledge, the advantage of what's happening in Europe, and I cannot see why it's not an automatic thing: 'yes, you're welcome here'.

"I cannot understand why everything has just ground to a halt."

Australia guarantees the freedom of speech but Mr Wilders' visit presents an awkward dilemma for Australian immigration authorities; following the release of the YouTube video 'Innocence of Muslims', violent protests erupted in Australian cities and tensions are yet to cool.

Furthermore, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen was criticised for granting controversial British Muslim speaker Taji Mustafa an Australia visa just days before the protests began. Mr Bowen defended his decision as Mr Mustafa is not on the movement alert list, a database of people Australian authorities have concern of.

Mr Wilders however, is on the movement alert list.

Mr Wilders has previously been denied entry into the UK, although this was turned over on appeal and he has also been tried, and acquitted, of hate charges in his native Netherlands.

It is likely Mr Bowen will once again be called upon to decide whether Mr Wilders can enter the country. Greens Senator Richard Di Natale says Mr Wilders is not welcome in Australia, but denying him a visa could set a dangerous precedent or add weight to his cause.

"We don't want to see Geert Wilders in this country. His views are not welcome here," said Senator Di Natale.

"This country's got a great story when it comes to multiculturalism, it's part of my own personal story, it's something we should all be proud of and here we've got a man who is the antithesis of multiculturalism.

"We don't think that he should come. The question of whether he should be granted a visa is a separate one. I think that by denying Geert Wilders a visa, there is the potential to give his cause more oxygen."

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people lodge applications with the Australian Embassy.

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