March 16, 2013
An asylum seeker who was to be deported on Sunday has been given a reprieve, after a last-minute injunction was sought from a Sydney court.
A 24-year-old Hazara man was set to fly back to Afghanistan after his claim for a visa was knocked back. But at a hearing in the Federal Magistrates Court on Saturday afternoon, the federal government backed away from its move to deport him, to await the outcome of a separate Federal Court decision due before July.
The Federal Court is considering what discretionary powers the Immigration Minister has to remove asylum seekers from Australia.
Lawyer Michaela Byers said the Immigration Department wanted to deport her client, Mr Ahmadi, before he had access to a review, which was set for April 17.
She said one possible reason to explain the government’s rush to deport her client was because of his conviction in a Darwin court last November for damaging property while in detention in the city.
Ms Byers said she had heard reports of at least 12 other Afghan asylum seekers who had been “rounded up” in Perth and Melbourne over the weekend to be deported.
Pamela Curr, of the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre, raised similar concerns about those from the Hazara ethnic minority who had been detained in Sydney and Melbourne over the past fortnight.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Immigration on Saturday said the department did not comment on removals before they occurred.
Two years ago, Australia and Afghanistan signed a memorandum of understanding on the involuntary return of asylum seekers, which enables the forced return of Afghans whose bids for asylum fail.
The government has recently been urged to reassess the claims of scores of Hazara asylum seekers due to fears for their safety if they were sent back.
Ms Curr said that around 100 Hazaras had their claims rejected last year when the success rate of Afghan applications dropped from around 90 per cent to around 30 per cent
“Around 100 men missed out on a fair process,” she said Saturday.
No Afghan asylum seekers have been returned this year, according to the Immigration Department. Three were sent back to Afghanistan in 2012.
Earlier this month, a group of 30 Afghan MPs wrote to the Australian government, raising fears for “125 individuals who are facing deportation to Afghanistan”. The MPs urged the government not to send the individuals back, citing serious security issues in the country.
Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre executive director David Manne said the independent evidence clearly showed the security situation in Afghanistan remained extremely unstable and dangerous.
“Any moves to expel Hazaras there would place them at serious risk of brutal abuse,” he said.
The Gillard government is facing increasing pressure in the election year on the issue of asylum seekers. Opposition Leader Tony Abbott targeted Prime Minister Julia Gillard on the matter in parliament last week, asking her confirm that people had arrived “illegally” by boat in the last nine months than they had under 11 years of the Howard government.