March 14, 2013
A group of 30 Afghan MPs has written to the Federal Government urging it to abandon plans to return asylum seekers to Kabul.
The ABC has obtained a copy of the letter, which says the security situation in the Afghan capital is getting worse and attackers are targeting members of the Hazara ethnic group.
Kabul MP Mohammed Ibhrahim Qasemi says the Afghan government would not be able to protect returnees from persecution as it already struggles to provide security and basic services to existing residents.
“We already have too much problem here,” he said. “If they came here, we cannot help them.
“Can they guarantee the security for them? No. They can provide the food for them? No.
“They can provide the place for them? No. So I don’t know how they do that.”
Two years ago Australia and Afghanistan signed a memorandum of understanding on the involuntary return of asylum seekers.
And the MPs have expressed their appreciation to the Australian Government for taking care of so many refugees and contributing to the security and development in Afghanistan.
But they believe sending Hazaras to Kabul would be a mistake.
We already have too much problem here. If they came here, we cannot help them. Can they guarantee the security for them? No. They can provide the food for them? No. They can provide the place for them? No. So I don’t know how they do that.Kabul MP Mohammed Ibhrahim Qasemi
Sonia Caton, a lawyer and the chair of the Refugee Council of Australia, says a test case is yet to be resolved in the Federal Court, and advises the Government to follow the lead of other countries, and wait.
“It’s interesting that Canada has had in place a moratorium on the return of failed asylum seekers to Afghanistan, in recognition of the pretty precarious security situation in that country,” she said.
The latest letter from Afghan MPs raises concerns about 125 failed Afghan asylum seekers.
Most of the parliamentarians who signed it are ethnic Hazaras, but it also includes MPs from other ethnic groups, something Ms Caton says in important.
“The fact that MPs from other ethnicities are also signing this letter is remarkable,” she said.
Some of the asylum seekers who could be returned to Afghanistan have spent extended periods in detention in Australia though their applications for asylum have failed.
Hasan Ghulam from the Australian Hazara Federation says the asylum process is flawed.
“These people they have collected, they are asylum seekers but the system was not really fair,” he said.
PM has contacted the office of Immigration Minister Brendan O’Connor and Opposition spokesman Scott Morrison. Both are yet to respond.