Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Archival Rescue 31 ~ Aus Detention & Deportation

Refugee advocates slam deal
May 18, 2005 - 9:14pm AAP Sydney Morning Herald

Refugee advocates have slammed a deal between Australia and Afghanistan which allows Afghani asylum seekers held in immigration detention to be forcibly deported to their homeland.

Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone announced the deal on Tuesday night and said 19 people detained either on the Pacific island of Nauru under the Australian government's Pacific solution or in Australia had been accepted by the Afghan government as nationals.

Those people could accept a reintegration package of $2,000 a person to return to Afghanistan voluntarily or be forcibly returned under the new memorandum of understanding (MOU).

Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul said the idea that Afghanistan was safe for asylum seekers to return was ridiculous.

"The government's announcement has added to fears of many Afghans still on temporary protection visas," he said.

"After persecution in their homeland, Afghans have been persecuted by the Australian government.

"They have tried everything except showing compassion and providing permanent protection to these refugees.

"The government is using them as a political football. It is playing with peoples lives for cheap political advantage."

Mr Rintoul said the wrongful deportation of Australian woman Vivian Alvarez to the Philippines four years ago showed deportation procedures were unsound and called on Senator Vanstone to stop all deportations until an inquiry into detention was complete.

Project SafeCom spokesman Jack Smit said the deal with Afghanistan was abhorrent and a Senate inquiry into immigration detention should be held.

"We have still some time before Mr Howard dominates the Senate ... this whole debacle is an excellent opportunity to fry DIMIA (the Immigration Department) over its latest and shonky mishandling of the poor folks on Nauru," he said.

Australian Greens Senator Kerry Nettle called on the government to release details of the MOU to reassure the public that the government was acting responsibly.

"The Australian government should not be entering into a secret memorandum of understanding that leads to the deportation of asylum seekers to countries with appalling human rights records, like Afghanistan and Iran," she said.

"The Greens believe that given the continuing instability in Afghanistan, Afghani asylum seekers should be allowed to remain in Australia and those on Nauru should be brought to the Australian mainland."


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