March 14, 2013
A group of Afghan men whose asylum claims have been rejected by the Government are appealing to the Federal Court to stop them being forced to return to Afghanistan.
They have received backing from an unusual quarter, with a group of Afghan MPs appealing to the Government to abandon plans to return asylum seekers to Kabul.
The Greens say the Government should take that warning seriously and put a moratorium on returning asylum seekers to Afghanistan.
Last week the Immigration Department detained four Afghan men whose claims for asylum had failed.
The department started making arrangements to return them to Afghanistan, but those plans are on hold for at least three of the men because they have filed appeals in the Federal Court.
Pamela Curr from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre says the department is trying to forcibly return Afghan asylum seekers while a decision in a test case is still pending.
“We are asking that they wait for the decision of the five Federal Court judges as to the legality of the removing of these men and that they wait for that decision before they take them out,” she told The World Today.
“We mustn’t forget, there are 120 Hazara men facing this situation of being removed.”
The Immigration Department says two Afghans were sent back late last year, but Ms Curr says the Government still has not succeeded in sending anyone from the Hazara ethnic group back to Afghanistan.
“I know of those two cases. They were not Hazaras and they did not come by boat. They were quite different cases,” she said.
The latest court fight over the return of asylum seekers to Afghanistan comes as dozens of Afghan members of parliament are appealing to the Australian Government not to return asylum seekers.
In a letter to the Government, 30 Afghan MPs say it is not safe to send asylum seekers from the minority Hazara ethnic group back to Kabul.
MP for Kabul Mohammed Ibrahim Qasemi spoke to the PM program last night.
“We already have too much problem here. If they came those people here we cannot help them too. They are a human too, you know,” he said.
Greens immigration spokeswoman Senator Sarah Hanson-Young says many Afghan asylum seekers were assessed using information which is now the subject of a legal challenge.
She wants the Federal Government to put a moratorium on returning people to Afghanistan.
“We know things are not safe. We know that when elections have taken place in Afghanistan they haven’t even been able to guarantee the safety of voters,” she said.
“And yet here we have members of parliament from Afghanistan saying we cannot guarantee the safety of people who Australia wants to deport. And please don’t do it.
“We should be listening to those people.”
Immigration Minister Brendan O’Connor is yet to respond.
A spokesman for the department says Australia does not return asylum seekers without fully assessing their protection claims.