Boatpeople offered help to return home
From: The Australian
July 21, 2010 12:00AM
ASYLUM-SEEKERS on Christmas Island who agree to go home could receive training, education and money to start a small business.
The proposed reintegration package would be administered by the IOM, which opened an office with two staff on Christmas Island this month.
“Primarily, IOM's role on Christmas Island will be to provide (detainees) with independent advice and assistance promoting voluntary departures from Australia,” a community notice from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship stated.
With rejection rates increasing sharply in recent months – particularly for Afghans – there are now potentially dozens of asylum-seekers in detention whom the department does not believe are refugees.
But they cannot be forcibly removed because they are entitled to an independent review of their cases, as well as the final option of asking Immigration Minister Chris Evans to intervene.
That process can take months, and with the island's detention compounds already above official capacity, The Australian has been told the department is keen to offer help to any detainee who might be considering going home.
An IOM spokesman said: “This means that migrants who have been determined by Australia to not be in need of protection and are therefore ineligible for resettlement can ask to talk to the IOM guy about the problems that they are likely to face when they go home, what they think they will need in terms of help to be re-admitted, find a job and get housing, etc”.
IOM has missions in most of the countries that boatpeople come from.
“The main aim of the project is to help them to cope by planning ahead,” the spokesman said.
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship sent 125 boatpeople home last year — 13 of them went involuntarily, including a Sri Lankan who climbed a 12m light pole in protest last October and refused to come down until after the chartered plane sent to collect him had left the island.
A few days later, specially trained guards were flown to the island and took the man and fellow protesters home to Sri Lanka on a chartered jet.
So far this year, only 28 asylum-seekers have returned to their country of origin, two of them involuntarily.
Both IOM representatives on Christmas Island were inside the detention centre on Monday when asylum-seekers from Sri Lanka and Afghanistan were handed rejections from immigration officials. They have spent the past week introducing themselves to detainees and offering to listen if they are thinking of returning home.
The Australian has been told the “reintegration package” under consideration would be tailored to the circumstances of each detainee found eligible to receive it.
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