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NZ refuses Bakhtiyari pleas

New Zealand has refused to offer refuge to Australia's highest-profile asylum seekers, the Bakhtiari family, who are facing imminent deportation.

According to The Age, New Zealand Immigration Minister Paul Swain said his country would not accept Ali and Roqia Bakhtiari and their six children because they had been judged by Australia as failing to meet refugee requirements.

As reported in yesterday's CathNews, Mr Swain said he had received a letter from the Australian Catholic welfare agency Centacare asking it to accept the family but he had not received a formal request from Canberra.

"Australia has determined that these people are not refugees," Mr Swain said. "New Zealand will not be accepting these people as refugees. I will not be considering this request nor will I be intervening.

"The New Zealand government does not intervene in the Australian refugee determination process."

Centacare director Dale West wrote to the New Zealand government on Friday requesting consideration of asylum for the family. He said he had been given indications New Zealand would at least consider the request.

"They have received my letter and the indications are that the New Zealand government will consider our request for the Bakhtiari family to go to New Zealand," Mr West told ABC radio.

"I don't hold any great optimism, I don't hold any particular pessimism."

The last-ditch plea to New Zealand followed the federal government's dismissal of an appeal from the Bakhtiari family to be returned to Afghanistan.

The family claims to be from Afghanistan but the government believes they are from Pakistan.

Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone said she is amazed the family would voluntarily return to Afghanistan after arguing for so long that they could not return there.

Immigration officials on Saturday removed Roqia Bakhtiari and the six children from the Adelaide house where they had been living and put them in detention in an immigration housing facility at Port Augusta in South Australia's north.

The head of the family, husband and father Ali Bakhtiari, remains in the nearby Baxter detention centre.

The family has exhausted all avenues in its bid to secure refugee status in Australia and Senator Vanstone has given no guarantee they will remain in Australia for Christmas.

Mr West said there were humanitarian grounds and compassionate reasons to consider before forcing the Bakhtiaris from Australia.

"I think there are a number of people who believe that this family deserve special consideration," he said.

"The system has determined that the family is not able to stay in Australia and so what we're left with is an appeal to Minister Vanstone, in the first instance, to support the family in their wish to leave voluntarily to a country where they certainly believe that they will be in a safer set of circumstances than if they are forcibly removed from Australia."

NZ refuses Bakhtiyari pleas (The Age 21/12/04)

Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs
St Ignatius College
Centacare Adelaide
Baxter Watch

Headmaster blasts 'totalitarian' act on family (CathNews 21/12/04)
Students rally behind detained Bakhtiyari family (CathNews 20/12/04)
Headmaster optimistic over Bakhtiyari claims re-examination (CathNews 31/8/04)
Centacare director 'devastated' by Govt demands (CathNews 30/6/04)
Bishop's increased concern over Baxter situation (CathNews 13/12/04)

Family loses fight after four years (The Age 21/12/04)
Vanstone defends timing of Bakhtiyari move (ABC North and West SA 20/12/04)
Early morning brings dreaded arrival (The Age 21/12/04)
NZ asked to give Bakhtiyaris a lifeline (The Age 21/12/04)
Welfare agency asks New Zealand to open its doors to Bakhtiari family
Letters: Please let the Bakhtiyari family stay - Fr G.J. O'Kelly (The Age 21/12/04)

21 Dec 2004