Catholic advocate urges better immigration policy scrutiny

Phil Glendenning of the Edmund Rice Centre for Justice and Community Education has said that the execution Australia's refugee determination policies needs to be more closely monitored.

He was speaking to ABC Radio's PM program following the disappearance in the Philippines of a woman wrongfully deported from Australia and the revelation of how little is known about the fate of rejected asylum seekers.

Officially, the Federal Government washes its hands of a failed asylum seeker once he or she is removed from Australian soil. There is no follow-up to ensure that the returnees are safe and the Immigration Department does not publish the number of cases or the details of individual cases.

"Basically the policy is one of we deport them, we dump them, we leave them, as evidenced in this situation with an Australian citizen who cannot be located," said Mr Glendenning. "That doesn't surprise me because that's been going on for years now."

The PM reporat said a Senate Committee in 2000 recommended some form of monitoring of the fate of rejected asylum seekers. It said monitoring was the only way Australia can be sure its refugee determination processes are correctly identifying genuine refugees and humanitarian cases. It recommended that the task be given to non-government organisations in consultation with government, but the Federal Government rejected this advice, saying Australia is not responsible for the future well being of a rejected asylum seeker.

The Edmund Rice Centre and the Australian Catholic University have jointly published research into the fate of 40 rejected asylum seekers, finding only five were safe.

"We undertook this work for the simple reason that the Government doesn't do it," said Mr Glendenning. "The Government doesn't know what happens to people when they're removed from Australia and unless and until Australia can be, is able to say that people are safe in their return, we are not able to say that we are able to correctly identify refugees."

He said that he knows of at least four cases in which rejected asylum seekers have been killed.

A spokesman for the Immigration Minister, Amanda Vanstone, said that the Edmund Rice Centre's research is uncorroborated.

He maintained that the department was never approached to test the accuracy of any of the claims, and that the report does not also consider whether failed asylum seekers may have a motive for exaggerating or embellishing their stories.

Disappearance shows up system flaws (ABC Radio PM 9/5/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Edmund Rice Centre

Family breaks silence over deportation (ABC TV Lateline 9/5/05)
Vanstone speaks over wrongful detention (ABC TV Lateline 9/5/05)

10 May 2005