March 17, 2013
(April 03, 2009) TOUR Gul travelled halfway around the world to escape Afghanistan. An enemy of the Taliban, he was convinced he was a target. But in 2002, Australia rejected his plea for asylum and sent him home to his death.
“He was worried. He knew the Taliban would kill him but the government refused him,” said his friend, Salem Haideri.
Mr Gul’s death late last year made front-page news in Afghanistan. “A famous leader has been killed innocently, in cold blood by the the anti-Islamic forces,” said the Governor of Maidan Wardak province, Mohammed Halim Fedaie. The killing of Mr Gul and another asylum seeker, Mohammed Hussain, have prompted renewed calls for Afghans denied refugee status under the former government to have their cases reopened.
The Age last week revealed four rejected asylum seekers from Afghanistan who travelled on the Tampa have now been found to be genuine refugees, after they risked a second boat trip with people smugglers.
One of the men, Asmatullah Mohammadi, said 11 asylum seekers on Nauru had been killed by the Taliban after they were sent back to Afghanistan.
The director of social justice agency the Edmund Rice Centre, Phil Glendenning, who spent six years travelling the world to investigate the fate of rejected asylum seekers, said he believed 11 deaths was a conservative figure.
Mr Glendenning has called on Immigration Minister Chris Evans to reopen the cases of rejected Afghan asylum seekers.
“Some sort of justice needs to be afforded to people who came here seeking our protection and were sent back to the Taliban,” Mr Glendenning said.
Senator Evans said he was aware of the “serious questions raised about repatriations to Afghanistan under the failed Pacific Solution”.
“My office has been in contact with the Edmund Rice Centre … and its findings will be carefully considered by the Government, along with further advice that I have sought from my department, before any decision is taken as to what action may be appropriate.”
Mr Gul, 47, stayed in Villawood but was also released into the community. He returned to Afghanistan in 2002 after he was denied refugee status.
Mr Haideri, who met Mr Gul while he was fruit-picking in Griffith, NSW, said a lot of people had cried over his friend’s death. “He said the Taliban knew him. The Taliban said: ‘You’ve been in Australia, you are an agent.”‘
Mr Glendenning said Mr Gul claimed asylum in Australia because his membership of the Sayaaf party, which was part of the mujahideen, made life dangerous for him after the Taliban took over. “We believe that was the reason he was shot through the head,” he said.
Mohammed Hussain, a poet who was detained on Nauru, was killed last year when he was thrown down a well by gunmen, believed to be Taliban, in front of members of his own family. His assailants then threw a hand grenade down the well and he was decapitated.
Mr Glendenning interviewed Mr Hussain in Kabul in January last year, for his documentary A Well-Founded Fear, about asylum seekers rejected during the Howard years. “I was forced to leave this country, and seeking refuge in Australia worsened my crime,” he says in the film.
Afghan man Chaman Shah Nasira, who was resettled in Australia after two years on Nauru, urged the Government to reopen the rejected cases.
He said the Immigration Department had put pressure on asylum seekers to return to Afghanistan when they were denied refugee status, telling them NATO was bringing peace to the country and they would never be let into Australia.
About 400 Afghans detained on Nauru were returned to Afghanistan after having their asylum claims rejected.