Off-shore processing failed dead asylum seekers: Edmund Rice

Afghani asylum seekers detained on Nauru were told Afghanistan was safe and that if they did not leave voluntarily they would likely face forced deportation later, Phil Glendenning, director of Edmund Rice Centre said yesterday, rejecting a denial of Government responsibility by Immigration Minister.

Senator Amanda Vanstone said in parliament it was not Australian government policy to forcibly return people from the tiny Pacific island of Nauru to their country of origin.

"There has not been a forcible removal from Nauru," she said.

But the Edmund Rice Centre, which released a report on Monday claiming that at least nine rejected asylum seekers forcibly repatriated by the Australian government to Afghanistan were killed upon their return, has lashed out at the Senator's comments.

"We have statements from a number of asylum seekers formerly on Nauru, some sent back to Afghanistan, others eventually admitted into Australia as refugees. The stories are consistent. They all show that those on Nauru were told they could leave voluntarily now or face the possibility of forced deportation later," Mr Glendenning said.

He said many of the asylum seekers on Nauru were denied independent advice. He said they were told Afghanistan was safe and that if they do not go, they would be forced back.

"This was not a choice," said Mr Glendenning.

He said that Australia now knows that many of those rejected asylum seekers were genuine refugees. Many of those that stayed were later recognised as refugees and allowed into Australia, he said.

"The fact that their original claims on Nauru failed demonstrates that the process for determining claims on Nauru failed. For some people, that failure was fatal," Mr Glendenning said.

"This needs to serve as a lesson. Australia cannot allow its refugee determination processes to be placed offshore, outside the control of our courts and access to independent legal advice. The process on Nauru failed, and people died. Let us not make the same mistake a second time," he said.

The Edmund Rice Centre research team to Afghanistan consisted of Mr Glendenning, Mr Paul Lane from the Lingiari Foundation in Broome and Mr Martin Reusch, interpreter and former resident of Kabul.

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.

Decision to Return to Afghanistan No 'Choice' (Edmund Rice Centre, Media Release, 9/8/06)

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

Nine rejected asylum seekers killed: Edmund Rice Centre (CathNews, 8/8/06)
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)

10 Aug 2006