Asylum seekers sent home: govt
The Brisbane Times, October 2, 2009
More than 60 Indonesians who arrived by boat in Australian waters have been returned home after failing to meet criteria for refugee status.
A spokesman for Immigration Minister Chris Evans said preparations were also being made to fly nine Sri Lankans home after they failed in their applications for protection visas.
The men swam ashore last November after arriving in Shark Bay, about 800km north of Perth, on a boat carrying 12 people, Fairfax newspapers reported.
Senator Evans said the Department of Immigration, the Refugee Review Tribunal and the minister had rejected their bids.
'They'd be the first group of people in recent times who've been removed from Australia from unauthorised boat arrivals,' he told ABC Radio on Friday.
'They were found not to be refugees, not to be owed Australia's protection.'
Meanwhile, a group of 62 Indonesian men whose boat was intercepted north of Broome on September 15 have been flown home after processing at the Christmas Island detention centre, off Australia's northwest coast.
The 58 passengers and four crew, who claimed to be from Java, were told they had not raised any issues 'which might engage Australia's protection obligations', Senator Evans said in a statement.
The group had 'requested removal' when told they did not meet any criteria for refugee status under the Refugees Convention, he said.
'Someone who is seeking better economic opportunities does not meet the criteria for a protection visa,' Senator Evans said.
'The government has made its position clear. People who are owed Australia's protection under our international obligations will be granted that protection.
'All irregular maritime arrivals found not to be owed protection and with no other basis to remain in Australia will be removed.'
Senator Evans said 21 asylum seekers who arrived by boat since the beginning of the year had returned home voluntarily.
He said removal arrangements were being finalised for another six people who had asked to return home.
The minister's spokesman said the nine Sri Lankans who failed in their applications for protection visas had been flown from Christmas Island to Perth and were in the process of being sent home.
Almost 1,500 people have arrived on 30 unauthorised vessels so far this year.
Opposition immigration spokeswoman Sharman Stone said the rejected asylum seekers from Sri Lanka had had their day in court.
'They weren't found to be refugees but those seeking a better life. You can understand why they would have given that a try,' Ms Stone told ABC Radio on Friday.
Ms Stone said Labor's softening of border protection laws, including the end of temporary protection visas, had dismantled the tougher policies of the previous Howard government.
'They are busy unravelling what we had, which was strong detention, detection, deterrent measures.'
Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul said the asylum seekers about to be deported had refused to sign any paper agreeing to return to Sri Lanka.
'It's too dangerous for them to go back to Sri Lanka and they won't go voluntarily,' he told ABC Radio, adding they had not been informed about their access to a Federal Court appeal.
Senator Evans denied this had happened.