Door Slammed On Afghan Asylum-Seekers

Door slammed on Afghan asylum-seekers

By Paige Taylor and Paul Maley
The Australian, June 17, 2010

More than 40 per cent of Afghan asylum-seekers are being rejected as refugees, down sharply on the 95 per cent who were being waved through less than one year ago.

Immigration Minister Chris Evans yesterday said more than 220 Afghans had been denied 'in the last month or two'.

'They are now getting rejected at quite large rates,' Senator Evans said. 'The last percentage I saw was over 40 per cent.'

Afghans comprise the biggest group of asylum-seekers who arrived at Christmas Island last year and so far this year.

Crowding on Christmas Island has prompted the Department of Immigration and Citizenship to look for mainland options to house detainees.

Senator Evans said offers were flowing in from organisations on the mainland wanting to house asylum-seekers from Christmas Island. Those making approaches included maverick West Australian MP Wilson Tuckey, who suggested asylum-seekers could live at a pub in the wheatbelt town of Southern Cross.

Senator Evans described as 'nonsense' the claim by West Australian Premier Colin Barnett that Immigration officials had been sneaking around looking for places to house asylum-seekers in the state.

'We have people offering us sites,' he said.

Mr Barnett said it was discourteous and disappointing to learn that commonwealth government officials had gone uninvited to the agricultural college at Muresk, near the town of Northam, 90km east of Perth, in their search for housing for asylum-seekers.

But Senator Evans said the officials went there at the suggestion of a local. There had been discussions about the college's potential, but officials were not pursuing it as an option.