Nine rejected asylum seekers killed: Edmund Rice Centre

Researchers at the Edmund Rice Centre have identified nine asylum seekers forcibly repatriated by the Australian government to Afghanistan who were killed upon their return.

The Sydney Morning Herald quotes the researchers as saying that others were arrested, tortured or had family members killed.

"My children died so that John Howard could win an election," said Abdul, a Hazara Afghan who lost his two children aged six and nine when a grenade was dropped on their house four months after they returned to Afghanistan, according to the Centre's latest report.

Abdul, 31, whose surname cannot be released because he fears for his safety, now lives illegally in Pakistan. He told the researchers: "We got caught up in Australian politics. It was easy for the Australian Government after September 11 to say that the people fleeing from the Taliban were the Taliban."

Despite his pleas that he and his family would be killed, they were deported after 16 months on Christmas Island and Nauru.

The Centre has spent the past three years interviewing more than 80 rejected asylum seekers in 18 countries.

It has released its findings to coincide with the Government's migration bill, which has divided the Coalition. The bill would ensure all asylum seekers landing on the mainland were processed offshore, out of reach of Australia's legal system.

Phil Glendenning (pictured), the Director of the Centre, said the nine deaths, during 2002 and 2003, were reported in interviews with rejected asylum seekers and were supported by church and health workers.

The Centre confirmed two of the names of dead asylum seekers, Mohammed Moussa Nazaree and Yacoub Baklri, with their families.

It had to cut short its investigation in Afghanistan into the other deaths because Mr Glendenning and his two researchers were arrested by security police, and bandits later threatened their lives.

Mr Glendenning said the migration bill - expected to be discussed in the Coalition joint party room today - would in effect excise the mainland from Australia's migration zone.

"The concerns that were raised by Coalition backbenchers have been confirmed by what our experience in Afghanistan was. People were sent back and were killed, children have been killed, and the 'Pacific solution' on Nauru is flawed," he said.

The Australian adds that the report accuses the Government of exacerbating the danger with official documents that are confiscated on arrival or have a short expiry date.

"Many of those who relied on the paperwork provided by the Australian Government were left without identification," the report reads.

"For some the danger met them immediately on arrival at their destination ... for others the danger arose as they tried to live in the country to which Australia had sent them."

Last night, the Immigration Minister, Amanda Vanstone, said the centre had made similar claims before, but had refused to provide enough details to allow her office to investigate. Asked if she would investigate the cases of the two named people said to have died, she told the ABC's Lateline: "I'll have a think about that."

However, ERC's Phil Glendenning says all relevant information has been passed onto the Minister's department.

"I think the Minister has been incorrectly informed," he said.

"Any information that we have published, they have. We have provided that information to the department in advance of anything being published.

"We are very happy to work with the department obviously, and we have done so over a quite a considerable length of time."

Rejected refugees sent home to die: families tell harrowing stories (Sydney Morning Herald, 8/8/06)
Shipped to their deaths (Daily Telegraph, 8/8/06)
Deported Afghans 'jailed, tortured and killed' (The Australian, 8/8/06)
Edmund Rice Centre (Media release 8/07/2006)

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

Detention stuff-ups no surprise to Edmund Rice researchers (CathNews, 3/5/05)
Edmund Rice Centre claims at least 35 refugees sent back to danger (CathNews, 29/9/04)
Bishops welcome release of detention centre children (CathNews, 26/8/03)

Failed asylum seekers killed after repatriation, group says (ABC News Online, 8/8/06)
Vanstone 'incorrectly informed' on Afghan deaths (ABC News Online, 8/8/06)

8 Aug 2006