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Bishop insists most boat people genuine

Immigration Department figures showing that nine out of ten boat people who made it to Australia's migration zone are granted temporary protection visas, confirmed the integrity of their claims for asylum, Bishop Joseph Grech said yesterday.

Bishop Grech was speaking on behalf of the Bishops Conference, a chairman of its Committee for Migrants and Refugees.

He said the figures, contained in the department's annual report tabled in parliament yesterday, showed that most boat people coming to Australia were in genuine need of protection.

"These figures confirm that Australia has afforded protection to some of the most desperate people in the world, including women and children, many of whom who have fled the terror of Iraq and Afghanistan," Bishop Grech said.

"However, the figures do raise questions over the fact that most of these people who are determined to be genuine refugees are only receiving Temporary Protection Visas."

Bishop Grech said Temporary Protection Visas force most refugees who arrive by boat to justify their status every three years or face deportation and denied them certain forms of assistance given to other refugees.

"Surely, if a person is determined by due process to have a valid claim as a refugee under the United Nations convention then they deserve full and complete protection. A refugee is a refugee," he said.

"The high number of genuine refugees arriving by boat also highlights the need for prompt processing of claims, limiting the amount of time these people, who are often already traumatised, are forced to spend in detention."

Meanwhile Melbourne Catholic Commission for Justice Development and Peace executive officer Mark Purcell said a family gives up its fight for asylum and agreed to voluntary return to Iraq had been mistreated and placed under constant duress during their time in Australia.

He said: "One son is mentally damaged as a result of detention, and the trauma of their time in Australian detention centres will live with the family for years."

The Age reports today that after four years of failed asylum bids and on-and-off detention, the family's spirit has been crushed.

Most boat people in genuine need of protection - Catholic Bishop (Australian Catholic Bishops Conference)
Iraqi family gives up its fight for asylum (The Age)

90 per cent of refugees get visas (The Australian 29/10/03)
Department of Immigration & Multicultural & Ethnic Affairs
Immigrants: Jesuits Criticize Law on Right of Asylum (Vidimus Dominum)

30 Oct 2003