Some Boatpeople Seeking Asylum For Second Time

Some boatpeople seeking asylum for second time

Paul Maley
Article from: The Australian
May 05, 2009

AT least a dozen of the asylum seekers who have arrived in the current wave of boatpeople are return visitors, some having been granted temporary protection visas and others having been rejected after arriving on the now-infamous MV Tampa.

Figures supplied by the Immigration Department revealed that between October and January, four of those who arrived by boat had been in Australia previously on temporary protection visas.

The figures will reignite the debate about the effectiveness of the controversial visa scheme, which the federal Government abandoned but which the Coalition has suggested should be restored.

A further five boatpeople in the recent influx had been detained on Nauru as part of the now-defunct Pacific Solution and were voluntarily repatriated after their claims for protection failed. Of those five, four had sailed for Australia and been rescued by Norwegian freighter MV Tampa, which arrived in Australian waters in 2001, becoming a flashpoint election issue and leading to the Howard government creating the Pacific Solution of offshore processing centres.

The department revealed yesterday that since January, a further three boatpeople who had arrived were known to have either been in Australia previously or been detained on Nauru.

The figures mean that at least 12 of the asylum seekers to have journeyed to Australia in the current wave of arrivals have tried, or succeeded, in coming to Australia before.

A spokeswoman for the Immigration Department said last night it was possible the number could climb because some of the 231 asylum seekers who had arrived in Australia since January had still to be processed.

There have been 17 unauthorised boat arrivals since the Government announced in August a softening of detention policies.

The Coalition has said changes to Australian policy, in particular the abolition of TPVs, have contributed to the spike by conveying the impression Australia is now a soft touch.

TPVs allowed asylum seekers to stay in Australia for three years, requiring them to demonstrate a need for protection on an ongoing basis.

They were abolished in May last year, fulfilling an election pledge by Labor.

Malcolm Turnbull has said given the current surge, the Government must consider restoring the controversial visa.

But he has stopped short of committing the Coalition to such a move amid fears it could reopen a damaging rift in his party between moderates, who opposed the visa – and hardliners.

The Government has rejected the Coalition's arguments, saying a worldwide surge in refugees is behind the recent influx.

Yesterday, Refugee Council president John Gibson said it was difficult to know exactly why refugees might have chosen to leave Australia without assessing their individual cases.

But he suggested one reason might be the visas themselves.

“There have been some cases where people have been given protection but have returned home out of concern for their families,” Mr Gibson told The Australian.

“One of the causal functions in the increase in the number of people aboard the boats was the fact that TPVs didn't allow family reunions.”

Opposition immigration spokeswoman Sharman Stone said the Coalition would be watching the processing of two-time asylum seekers very closely.

“If they haven't experienced extreme trauma in the intervening years since their first rejection, then the Coalition will demand to know how the criteria for refugee selection has changed,” Dr Stone told The Australian.

Mr Gibson said a change in the political or physical situation in a refugee's home country might also account for a decision to return or reapply.