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Bakhtiyaris deported to save face, says Centacare head

According to Dale West, executive director of Centacare Adelaide, the Bakhtiyaris' fate was sealed after the older boys, Alamdar (pictured) and Monty, escaped from Woomera in 2002 and sought asylum with the British consulate in Melbourne. The Government was so embarrassed that it resolved to show no mercy, he said.

After five years and 20 failed legal attempts to stay in the country, Ali Bakhtiyari, his wife Roqia, who is reportedly pregnant, and their six children - aged 1 to 16 - were put on a private charter plane at 3am central time on 30 December.

"Today, I've talked with people we know in Pakistan who have spoken with Montazar (the 14-year-old son of Ali and Roqia Bakhtiari), so we know that they were definitely in Islamabad," Mr West told The Sydney Morning Herald, "but we're now confident they've left there".

"It's only speculation at this stage, but I think they will want to get back to Afghanistan as quickly as they can... because if it's a choice between staying in Pakistan and going to Afghanistan, where at least they know the language and have friends and family, then Afghanistan is the safer option."

The government deported the family becuase they claim the family is from Pakistan, not Afganistan, and therefore cannot claim refugee status. The Bakhtiyaris maintain they are Afghan.

According to The Age, after the family lost the protection of the courts following a final failed High Court appeal earlier this month, the Federal Government faced a choice: back down on its assertion that the Bakhtiyaris were fraudulent asylum seekers and quietly let them stay, or follow through on its pledge to deport them to Pakistan.

Mr West, who got to know the family well during their 16 months in the Adelaide community and believes they are Afghans, not Pakistanis, said he warned refugee advocates who freed the boys from Woomera that their dramatic gesture and the resulting world headlines would backfire.

"At the time I said this was not a good thing for activists to be doing, there was only going to be one loser in this and that was going to be the kids," he said.

Mr West said it is unfortunate the family became the face of detention in Australia.

In further developments, ABC News reports the minister for immigration, Senator Amanda Vanstone, says the bill to detain and deport the Bakhtiyari family from Australia will exceed $3 million. She says the Bakhtiyari family will be billed for at least a third of the costs and unless they pay they will be denied any future visas.

Mr West says it would now be futile to apply for visas to bring the Bakhtiyari children back to complete their education in Australia.

"Centacare, St Ignatius College and St Aloysius would be prepared to sponsor the children in relation to education visas," he said. "But if we needed to clear a $1 million, $2 million, $3 million debt first, then naturally that would be beyond any of our resources."

Mr West says the bill is a cruel condition to impose.

"I don't think it's necessary to dance on the graves of people who have been deported from Australia by force, and that has that sort of feel about it," he said.

Bakhtiaris 'headed for Afghanistan' (Sydney Morning Herald 4/1/05)
Bakhtiyari family goes 'missing' (The Age 3/1/05)
Bakhtiyaris fly out in dead of night (The Age 31/12/04)
Bakhtiyari family arrives in Pakistan (ABC News 3/1/05)

Edmund Rice Centre | Deported to Danger Report
Centacare Adelaide
Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs

Fears for Bakhtiyaris' safety after deportation (CathNews 24/12/04)
Brigidine says Bakhtiyari family 'victims of cruel deed' (CathNews 23/12/04)
NZ refuses Bakhtiyari pleas (CathNews 21/12/04)
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)

Bakhtiyaris believed to be on the move (The Age 4/1/05)
Deported family now in Pakistan (The Australian 1/1/05)
Deported family face $3m bill (The Australian 1/5/05)
Govt denies restraining Bakhtiyaris during deportation (ABC News 30/12/04)
Bakhtiyaris bound for Pakistan (ABC News 30/12/04)
Bakhtiyaris want time to say farewell (The Age 27/12/04)
Bakhtiyari family make final plea (The Age 27/12/04)
Speculation continues on Bakhtiyaris' deportation (ABC News 26/12/04)

4 Jan 2005