Gov’t Rejecting More Refugee Claims

Govt rejecting more refugee claims

By Larine Statham
The Australian Associated Press, May 20, 2010

Increasing numbers of asylum seekers are being denied refugee status, the federal immigration minister says.

Senator Chris Evans on Thursday said several people from Afghanistan and Sri Lanka had been returned home in recent months.

Many boat arrivals off Australia's west coast come from Sri Lanka but the Australian government has imposed a three-month freeze on processing asylum claims from people fleeing the country.

With Sri Lanka's long-running civil war now over, Senator Evans said many asylum applications by Tamils who arrived in Australia prior to the freeze have been denied.

'The rate of refusal is climbing quite quickly as conditions in those countries (improve),' he told reporters in Darwin.

He said cabinet would make a decision in June on whether to extend the freeze.

Despite the increase in the number of asylum applications being denied, the number of asylum seeker families being housed in hotels on the Australian mainland reportedly has also increased.

Senator Evans said media reports, which claim almost 215 asylum seekers are staying in hotels and motels in Darwin, Brisbane and Perth, had largely misrepresented the situation.

'Effectively, we have housed people in hotels and motels for the last 10 years under successive governments,' he said.

'As a result of having larger numbers of arrivals in recent months of families, we have had to use some short-term motel and hotel accommodation.

'I'm not going to put kids into a detention centre, and if you're not going to put kids behind barbed wire, then you have to find alternative accommodation.

'This is temporary accommodation … and we hope to find better long-term accommodation.'

A group of 61 asylum seekers, believed to be from Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, have been staying at the three-star Asti Hotel in Darwin for almost a week and, according to News Limited, may be there for several weeks.

Senator Evans said people who believe homeless Australians and Aborigines should be the first to be placed in such accommodation needed to be referred to the Rudd government's housing policies.

'We created a housing minister and we've got about seven different schemes to try to improve housing availability and affordability (for Australians),' he said.

'It's not a fair comparison.

'Critics of our (asylum-seeker processing) policies need to say what else they would do.'