Successful asylum claims plummet
From: The Australian
July 21, 2010 12:00AM
KEVIN Rudd's suspension of new Afghan and Sri Lankan asylum claims was followed by a rapid drop in successful asylum claims.
Yesterday, the regional head of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Richard Towle, accused the government of contradicting itself by suspending new Afghan asylum claims, ostensibly in order to reassess the local security situation, while at the same time rejecting Afghans at a rate of 70 per cent.
Before the Rudd suspension, Afghans were being approved at a rate of more than 95 per cent.
Mr Towle said the high refusal rates suggested a certainty about the situation in Afghanistan that was at odds with the stated reason for the suspension.
“There seems to be a contradiction between a suspension policy based on a lack of clarity and certainty in the country of origin and an ongoing process that has resulted in a dramatic fall in recognitions of more than 65 per cent,” Mr Towle told The Australian.
In April, the Rudd government announced all new Afghan asylum claims would be suspended for six months and new Sri Lankan claims for three months while decision-makers reviewed local conditions.
But prominent refugee lawyer David Manne said the announcement had been followed by a sharp drop in success rates for his clients.
“There is no doubt that there was a correlation in timing between a pattern of high refusal rates and the announcement of the suspension and our political leaders telegraphing that we could expect higher refusal rates.”
The Australian has been told the approval rate for Afghan refugees has plummeted from more than 95 per cent just six months ago to a rate of just 30 per cent.
Sources close to the process suggested a desire by decision-makers to avoid a bottleneck in the Christmas Island detention centre as well as a lack of information about the situation in Afghanistan were among the reasons for the stratospherically high Afghan success rate.
Refugee Council president John Gibson said there was “no way the (current) decision-making reflects the situation on the ground” in Afghanistan.
“In terms of Afghans, there is a question mark over the integrity of the process,” Mr Gibson said.
Yesterday, a spokesman for the Immigration Department “categorically denied” any political interference in the refugee selection process.
“Any such suggestions are baseless and totally without foundation,” he said.
The spokesman said new country information had been formulated in February, indicating that most Australia-bound Afghans had experienced greater stability “in recent times”. No details were given about what that new information was, but the spokesman confirmed their recognition rates had fallen on the strength of it.
The sudden drop has prompted the UNHCR to ask the Gillard government for an explanation, although Mr Towle said the UNHCR had not yet received one.
The Australian National University's William Maley said if anything, the outlook for Hazaras in Afghanistan had worsened over the past six months.
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