Afghan War To Blame For Refugee ‘Spike’: Advocate

Afghan war to blame for refugee 'spike': advocate

Posted Mon Dec 8, 2008 3:37pm AEDT
Updated Mon Dec 8, 2008 3:51pm AEDT

In the last three months six boats, carrying a total of 127 refugees, have been intercepted in Australian waters asking for asylum. (User Submitted: Michael Neist)

The Federal Opposition has accused the Government of having sub-standard refugee policies, after the Royal Australian Navy yesterday stopped another boatload of asylum seekers near Broome.

In the last three months six boats, carrying a total of 127 refugees, have been intercepted in Australian waters asking for asylum.

The Federal Government says the upturn in would-be arrivals is due to seasonal conditions, while the Opposition contends that people-smugglers are taking advantage of changed immigration laws, including the abolition of temporary protection visas and the dismantling of the Howard government's so-called Pacific Solution.

But refugee advocate Phil Glendenning, from the Edmund Rice Centre, has told The World Today's Felicity Ogilvie that the recent increase is a result of the intensifying war in Afghanistan.

“I think the recent increase, albeit a very slight increase, in people coming here, is due to one very important point; and that is the increase in the severity and the dangers people face in the war in Afghanistan,” he said.

“People are fleeing from the war. People are fleeing from persecution. It has been predicted by the United Nations Commissioner for Refugees that there would be this increase because of the conflicts that are taking place internationally, particularly in Afghanistan. And that is what we are seeing and we shouldn't be surprised by it.”

And Mr Glendenning said it was not correct to speak of a “spike” in the numbers of people seeking asylum in recent months.

“The use of the term spike is a problem for one reason – and that is the facts,” he said.

“The facts of the matter are this, that the total number of asylum seekers detained in Australia seeking to come here by boat this year numbers 127. Last year when the Coalition were in power, the number was 150.

“So you can hardly call it a spike. When you look at it the numbers are actually less this year than they were last year.

“What this points to, however, is that where there are inappropriate or not sufficient processes to deal with those who are the victims of war, then people smugglers will step up and take the place and fill the vacuum.”

“You have got to remember that the war in Afghanistan currently now, as opposed to last year, is much worse, much, much worse.

“And we know that because our soldiers are there fighting a war and tragically our soldiers have being killed there.

“People who are in the midst of a war zone, will seek to get out.”