Category Archives: Deportation

Judge blocks deportation flight for rejected Afghan asylum-seekers

April 25, 2015 | the guardian

Charter flight due to depart on Tuesday night cancelled after warning by Afghan minister for refugees and repatriation that 80% of country is not safe to return to.

Afghan security personnel at the scene of a suicide attack in Jalalabad. A high court judicial review is due to take place on whether deportations to Afghanistan remain safe in view of the worsening security situation

Afghan security personnel at the scene of a suicide attack in Jalalabad. A high court judicial review is due to take place on whether deportations to Afghanistan remain safe in view of the worsening security situation Photograph: Noorullah Shirzada/AFP/Getty Images

A charter flight which was due to depart on Tuesday night with dozens of Afghan asylum-seekers facing removal from Britain has been cancelled on the orders of an appeal court judge.

Lady Justice Rafferty blocked the flight ahead of a high court judicial review due on Wednesday on whether deportations to parts of Afghanistan remain safe in view of the deteriorating security situation.

The decision to postpone the charter flight of 56 rejected Afghan asylum-seekers, which was due to leave at 11.30pm on Tuesday, follows warnings to European countries by the Afghan minister for refugees and repatriation that 80% of the country was not safe to send people back to.

It also follows a separate ruling by a high court judge ordering the Home Office to arrange for a deported migrant family to be returned to Britain from Nigeria.

In an unusual step an immigration judge, Mr Justice Cranston, 10 days ago ordered the Home Office to find the mother and her five-year-old son and bring them back to Britain by Thursday.

He said in the “special circumstances” of the case the home secretary had failed to have regard for the best interests of the child, known only as RA, as a primary consideration in sending him back to Nigeria with his 45-year-old mother.

The judge said the Home Office had adopted a “careful and proactive” approach to the child’s interests in contacting the school and involving the [UK Border Agency’s] children’s champion and the independent family returns panel [which advises the Home Office on meeting welfare needs of children in families to be removed].

But he said they had not taken into account the implications of his mother’s degenerating mental health and the likely consequences for the child of sending them back to Nigeria together.

A Home Office attempt to overturn the ruling demanding the return of the mother and son from Nigeria was rejected at an appeal court hearing on Wednesday. “The tribunal was fully entitled to take the decision it did,” said the judge. The pair are due to arrive in London on a flight from Nigeria on Thursday.

The Home Office confirmed that the scheduled charter flight of Afghan deportees had not left on Tuesday night but refused to comment further on the case.

Lawyers for the Afghan deportees were expected to argue at a judicial review hearing on Wednesday that Britain could not safely return deportees to Afghanistan due to the security situation, which has deteriorated since allied forces started pulling out of the country.

They claim that nowhere outside of Kabul could be considered safe enough to send people back to and the Afghan capital did not have the infrastructure to look after vulnerable people who have been deported from Europe. The legal challenge is effectively pressing for the official Foreign Office country guidance for Afghanistan to be rewritten.



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Resurgent Taliban targets Afghan Hazara as Australia sends them back

December 17, 2014 | the guardian


Juma, a Hazara man, standing on his ancestral lands. In the background is the mountains where his daughter froze to death while they hid from the Taliban in a 1998 attack. Photograph: Abdul Karim Hekmat for the Guardian

In Afghanistan, more and more Hazara are preparing to flee a resurgent Taliban, just as Australia has started returning Hazara asylum seekers. Another is being deported on Wednesday.

It was midnight in Ghor when the Taliban appeared on the road in the headlights of the minivans, waving at the vehicles to stop.

There were 20 men on the road, carrying Kalashnikovs. Nearby stood a truck, stopped earlier by the same men, now fully ablaze.

The Taliban boarded the buses and ordered everybody off.

By the light of the burning vehicle they checked everyone’s face against the ID they carried.

The 13 Hazara – easily distinguished by their facial features – were roughly moved into a separate line. They were marched away into the darkness and shot.

The victims had been travelling to Kabul for Eid, to celebrate the end of Ramadan with their families. Among the dead was a child and a couple married only a few days earlier, travelling to their honeymoon.

Fatima’s husband died in the darkness on the side of the road that night. “Life is very hard after I lost my husband … the night is night but the day is also like night for me,” she tells Guardian Australia from her home in Kabul. She wipes tears from her eyes with the hem of her chador.

Hazara woman Fatima, whose husband was killed by Taliban insurgents in a roadside attack this year. Her family has been left destitute by his death. Photograph: Abdul Karim Hekmat for the Guardian

Hazara woman Fatima

Hazara woman Fatima, whose husband was killed by Taliban insurgents in a roadside attack this year. Her family has been left destitute by his death. Photograph: Abdul Karim Hekmat for the Guardian

“What was his crime to be killed that way? He was just bringing some food to the table for his children.”

Fatima and her six children have been left destitute following her husband’s death.

She cannot afford to send them to school. Her 12-year-old son finds work on the streets to feed the family.

“My heart aches when I look at other fathers who cuddle their children on the street. I hear them call ‘daddy’. But my children don’t have a father. I have a little four-year-old boy who used to hang on his father’s shoulder all the time. He always asks me ‘where is my father?’”

Afghanistan, which for generations has known only the brutal, grinding waste of war, is as dangerous as it has ever been.

Over 13 years the presence of hundreds of thousands of foreign soldiers brought no peace to a benighted land.

And their withdrawal has left a power vacuum that is being filled by whomever is most brutal and most ruthless.

Afghanistan’s ethnic and religious minorities, such as the Hazara of the country’s central plains, again face persecution.

“Hazara are being killed because of their ethnicity right across the country,” Mohammad Musa Mahmoudi, executive director of Afghanistan Independent Human Rights says. “It has happened several times.”

The enmity is ancient, and runs deep. Hazara are Shia muslims, “kafirs” (infidels) to the Sunni Taliban. “Hazara are not Muslim. Killing them is not a sin,” Mullah Manan Niazi, the Taliban governor of Mazar-e-Sharif, said in a public address to his followers.

In 1998 Taliban extremists drove Hazara in their thousands from the city into the surrounding Koh-e-baba mountains.

Eight thousand were slaughtered, while others died in the cold of the hills. Hazara farmer Juma was one of those who fled, as the Taliban burned down his village. His eight-year-old daughter froze to death as he held her.

“Many people were killed in the caves and the mountains when they were caught by the Taliban.”

This year, for the first time since the war in Afghanistan began, Australia has started deporting Hazara asylum seekers back to their country, arguing it is safe for them to return.

The Australian government concedes it is not safe for them to live in their villages, or to travel the roads to their homelands controlled by the Taliban and impassable. But it says it is safe for Hazara in the capital, Kabul.

On Wednesday, Australia is due to forcibly deport a third Afghan Hazara this year when 33-year-old Faiz (not his real name) will be put on a plane bound for Kabul with a clutch of guards.

Once there, the guards will leave him on the streets of the city he fled more than two years ago.

Faiz was a farm worker from Jaghori district who says he was kidnapped twice by the Taliban and impressed into forced labour before being released.

He says he was told by a Talib he was believed to be a spy for the Americans, and warned he was on his last chance.

Last year, the Australian government’s assessment process found Faiz was not a refugee requiring Australia’s protection, and that it was safe for him to return.

But the Refugee Council of Australia has briefed immigration department officials that the government’s knowledge of the security situation in Afghanistan was out of date, and that it is not safe to send any Hazara back.

The first Afghan Hazara to be returned, Zainullah Naseri, was deported in August. Three weeks later he was stopped by the Taliban at a roadside checkpoint on the way to his home district of Jaghori, in the central province of Ghazni.

Naseri was captured and chained up, beaten and tortured, while his captors negotiated a ransom for his release. He fled after two days, using a rock to smash the chains that held his feet, and escaping through the crude sewerage system. He is now living, still in hiding, on the streets of the capital.

Zainullah Naseri

The first Afghan Hazara to be returned by Australia, Zainullah Naseri, was deported in August. He was captured by the Taliban, chained up, beaten and tortured. Photograph: Abdul Karim Hekmat for the Guardian

Another Hazara man, Australian-Afghan Sayed Habib Musawi, who returned home to see his grandchildren, was pulled off a bus at a similar illegal Taliban checkpoint, on a nearby road between Jaghori and Kabul. He was tortured before being shot and his body was dumped on the side of the road.

Faiz is from the same Jaghori district as Zainullah and Sayed. All the roads between Kabul and Jaghori are controlled by the Taliban.

At least another six Hazara men have been “redetained” by Australian authorities, in anticipation of their expected deportation in the new year.

From 1 January to 30 June, the United Nations documented 4,853 civilian casualties in Afghanistan, a 24% rise compared with 2013, when casualties in turn were 14% higher than in 2012.

Suicide attacks in Afghanistan’s cities have risen 68%, and women and the young are particularly at risk. A third of the civilians killed this year have been children.

Australia’s ambassador to the UN, Gary Quinlan, told the security council in September: “We have seen an increase in civilian casualties … recent attacks involving large numbers of fighters are a particularly worrying trend.”

Benjamin Lee, a former human rights lawyer for the UN in Afghanistan, says the withdrawal of foreign troops has left a chasmic power vacuum in Afghanistan.

“This has changed the war’s dynamics. Afghan security forces are now clashing with Taliban and other insurgent groups in villages, in communities, in populated areas,” Lee says. “Mortar rounds, rocket-propelled grenades, heavy and small arms fire, improvised bombs, characterise these exchanges, and the impact on civilians is tragically predictable.”

The Taliban are moving away from the patient guerrilla tactics of their war of attrition with the overwhelming might of the US. The Taliban fight in the streets now. More people now die from gunfire than bombs.

“This is an emboldened Taliban, this is changes in territorial control, this is a consequence of the withdrawal of a lot of the advanced technological equipment that international forces had available to them, particularly aircraft,” Lee says.

“Particular ethnic groups, including the Hazara, have been disproportionately targeted, but the point I would convey is that it’s simply not safe to send anyone back, regardless of their ethnicity.”

The Australian government sends deported Afghan Hazaras back to Kabul, arguing the capital is a safe place for them to live, even if the roads to their homelands are under insurgent control and impassable.

Once, that was undoubtedly true. During the war, while western money was still flooding into Afghanistan, Kabul was markedly safer than the rural provinces that surrounded it, or the cities in the restive south. It was far from an oasis of peace, but money and western interests brought with them some measure of security.

But with the drawdown of foreign troops during 2014, Kabul has spiralled into regular violence. In January, a suicide bomber blew a hole in the wall of a Kabul restaurant frequented by westerners. Two gunmen stepped through the hole and opened fire, killing 21 people where they ate.

Two months later the Taliban breached the supposedly-secure Serena hotel, and killed 10 people, including two children. In June, an attack on presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah killed 13 people. And in August, the US sustained its highest-ranking wartime casualty since Vietnam, when two-star Major General Harold Greene was shot dead by a rogue Afghan soldier.

Last month, high-profile female politician Shukria Barakzai (who had run a secret school for girls during the Taliban’s reign) was injured in an attack on her car that killed three civilians.

And last week a suicide bomber killed a German civilian while watching a play being performed at a high school in Kabul.

“Taken together, these Kabul attacks,” Lee argues, “demonstrate that restaurants, hotels, even the streets aren’t safe. When the top foreign military brass can’t be protected, where does that leave the Afghan civilians we are returning?”

A connection to the west, or a perceived sympathy for it, makes anyone a target, but particularly a member of a minority.

Zainullah Naseri’s ethnicity drew the Taliban’s attention, but it was the Australian driver’s licence they found in his pocket that made him a person worth capturing.

Hazara embraced the nascent democracy of post-2001 Afghanistan, in response to the brutal oppression they had faced during the Taliban rule.

During the next decade of foreign intervention, thousands found work as interpreters for western forces, or truck drivers for the government. Their children could again go to school, enrol in university or take public service jobs.

But in 2014 the Hazara no longer have the protection of the wealthy, powerful forces that once employed them, and find themselves again the target of a resurgent Taliban.

“If the Taliban come back,” says Abdul Khaliq Azad from the Afghan Strategic and Peace Studies in Kabul, “they would annihilate the Hazara because of their staunch support for the foreign presence in Afghanistan.”

The Taliban are back. So Hazara are leaving. Dozens of Hazara in Kabul tell Guardian Australia they are preparing to leave Afghanistan, by legal means or otherwise.

Supply and demand works in trafficking too. The people smugglers’ price for a ticket to Indonesia has halved in recent months, from $12,000 to $6,000, as entire families – not just single men of working age – decide to leave. Many have ambitions of ultimately reaching Australia.

People in Kabul are aware of Australia’s “stop the boats” policy, under which unauthorised vessels are forcibly turned around, or asylum seekers removed to Nauru and PNG.

Many are discouraged, some are not.

The thousands of Hazara leaving this place are trying to get anywhere, be that Australia, or Indonesia, or Europe. They just know they have to leave.

Najibullah Naseri is from the same village as Zainullah (though no relation). He is stuck in Kabul, unable to get home, and feeling increasingly constricted in the capital. Every day the Taliban feel a little closer.

“I have not seen my family in Jaghori for one-and-a-half years. So what’s the point of living here?”

He is preparing to leave, looking for a route, any route, that will take him out of the country. “If the Afghan government can’t provide security for us, we should free ourselves, before we are killed here.”


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Hazara asylum seeker fears for life if forceably returned, say refugee advocates

December 15, 2014 | the age

Protesters say a Hazara asylum seeker faces death if returned.Protesters say a Hazara asylum seeker faces death if returned.

Refugee advocates say they fear a Victorian Hazara asylum seeker will be killed when the Federal Government sends him back to Afghanistan on Wednesday.

More than 150 Hazara and refugee advocates protested against his deportation outside the Immigration Department’s Melbourne offices on Sunday holding placards such as “no return is safe” and “Hazarans face genocide”.

Gulistan, 33, will be the third Hazara, and the first from Victoria, to be sent back to war-torn Afghanistan since forced removals began in August.

Pamela Curr from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre said DFAT advice that Afghanistan was now safe was incorrect and that it was more dangerous than ever for Hazara.

“The strategy seems to be to pick Hazaras out at random and then issue them with a letter and send them back,” she said

Ms Curr said the first man to be sent back, Zainullah, was captured and tortured by the Taliban within weeks of his return before he subsequently escaped.

The second, Abduallah, is trapped in Kabul unable to make the journey back to his family in Jaghori out of fear he would be killed en route on a road known as the “highway to hell”.

Australian citizen Sayed Habib Musawi, who went back to Jaghori in September to visit family, was pulled off a bus on his way and shot by Taliban militants.

Protest organiser David Ahmadi said Gulistan had been living in Dandenong for three years before he was detained at the Maribyrnong Detention Centre last week.

“If they deport him, he will have to take the exact same route back to his village,” he said.

Mr Ahmadi said about 100 more Hazara in Victoria, who also had made unsuccessful refugee applications, faced the same fate.

“The murder of Sayed Habib and the torture of Zainullah occurred in the precise manner that these men facing removal have been saying would happen to them,” he said.

Fairfax Media was asked not to use the men’s last names for their protection.


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Activists attempt to prevent Hazara man deportation at Perth airport

October 30, 2014 | ABC News

Refugee activist Sally Thompson

Refugee activist Sally Thompson

Activists have been campaigning at Perth International Airport to try to prevent a man from the minority Hazara community in Afghanistan being deported.

The Refugee Rights Action Network said the 20-year-old man, who has been held at a detention centre in Northam for two years, has been moved to a facility near the airport.

The network said the refugee tribunal found the man to be in genuine danger of persecution if he returned to Afghanistan, but had still been ordered to leave Australia.

The Minister for Immigration and Border Protection would not confirm if the man was being deported but released a statement .

It said: “People who have exhausted all outstanding avenues to remain in Australia and have no lawful basis to remain are expected to depart”.

Activist Sally Thompson said the tribunal found the man would be in danger if he returned to his home district but not if he was sent to Kabul.

“The last Hazara who was sent back was tortured in September,” she said.

“He was sent back by the Australian Government in August.

“He’s from the same area in Afghanistan and within a month of his arrival back there he was captured by the Taliban and tortured.”

Activists and about 40 members of Perth’s Hazara community confronted passengers at the airport and handed out about 600 leaflets in an attempt to prevent the man being deported.

Ms Thompson said they hoped to raise awareness of his plight.

“A hopefulness that someone on the plane may actually take action in a passive way by keeping their seatbelt undone and explaining why or standing up on the plane and saying why,” she said.

“Under law that means the plane can’t take off.”

The statement from the immigration Minister said: “People who do not hold a valid visa and are unwilling to voluntarily depart may be subject to detention and removal from Australia.

“Australia does not return people to their country of origin where this would contravene our obligations under international human rights instruments that Australia is party to, including the Refugee Convention.”


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Calls for moratorium on deportation of asylum seekers to Afghanistan after abduction, torture claims

October 27, 2014 | ABC News

Zainullah Naseri during a police interrogation

Zainullah Naseri during a police interrogation

Refugee advocates are calling for a moratorium on the deportation of failed asylum seekers to Afghanistan as the Australian Government prepares to forcibly return a 20-year-old Hazara man to Kabul.

The first man to be returned involuntarily to Afghanistan, Zainullah Naseri, has claimed he was abducted and tortured by the Taliban when he tried to make his way to his home district outside Kabul last month.

A video of an Afghan police interrogation obtained by Lateline showed police firing shots as Mr Naseri walked towards them. The police officers told the ABC they feared he was an insurgent trying to attack their post.

Covered in dirt with a ripped shirt, Mr Naseri was led inside the police post, where he told the officer he had just escaped from the Taliban who captured him as he tried to return to his home province from the capital, Kabul.

The police later released Mr Naseri and he returned to Kabul, where he is staying in a guesthouse.

“I don’t have anything really,” he told Lateline.

“My money is almost finished and I’ll have no other choice but to sleep outside under the bridge.”

Man could suffer persecution from Taliban

The 20-year-old man who is due to be deported tomorrow arrived in Australia in May 2012 and claims to be from the same district as Mr Naseri.

In April 2013 the Refugee Review Tribunal found there was a real chance the applicant could suffer persecution at the hands of the Taliban if he return to his home district, but not if he stayed in Kabul, where he has an uncle.

The tribunal rejected the man’s claim that before fleeing to Australia he was working as a truck driver and was attacked several times by the Taliban.

The ABC has seen a copy of the deportation letter, which stated that the man will be returned to Kabul on October 28.

The letter stated the man must pay $25,000 to the Australian Government to cover the cost of his deportation.

Refugee groups have said eight other Hazara men have been re-detained in Australia and could soon be deported.

“If we are really interested in the sanctity and protection of human lives, then we shouldn’t be taking a risk with these peoples lives,” Phil Glendenning from the Refugee Council of Australia said.

“There needs to be a moratorium on these deportations.”

‘Any kidnapping was opportunistic’

In Kabul, Mr Naseri told Lateline he was on medication to treat depression and was too scared to make another attempt to reach his home district.

He said he believed his life was in more danger now than ever before.

“The Taliban took all my documents,” he said.

“They may even print my photos and place them everywhere and they might try to capture me again. Even in Kabul I feel paranoid when others see me, including the police.”

Mr Naseri said he was called to the Australian Embassy in Kabul several weeks ago to give a statement about his abduction claim.

In a written statement to the ABC, Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Scott Morrison said his enquiries into Mr Naseri’s claims were ongoing.

Mr Morrison said at this stage reports suggested “that any kidnapping was opportunistic and is not therefore related to a fear of persecution that would have otherwise given rise to a protection obligation”.

The statement said Australia does not return people to their country of origin where “this would contravene our obligations under international human rights instruments that Australia is party to, including the Refugee Convention”.


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UK to deport Pakistani activist despite Taliban death threats

October 16, 2014

Liaquat Ali Hazara, whose deportation is set for 21 October, campaigned for Shia minority group against sectarian violence.

Liaquat Ali Hazara
Liaquat Ali Hazara is a campaigner for a Shia minority group that shares his name – the Hazaras. Photograph: Facebook

Britain plans to deport a prominent Pakistani activist within a week, even though he has received multiple death threats from the country’s most brutal sectarian group, and from Taliban militants who know his home address and have been stalking him online.

Liaquat Ali Hazara is a campaigner for a Shia minority group that shares his name, the Hazaras. More than 500 Hazaras have been killed in his home province of Balochistan since 2008, according to a Human Rights Watch report published this year, entitled We Are the Walking Dead.

It details bombings and shootings, including an assault on a bus full of pilgrims, when gunmen came back to kill wounded survivors as they were taken to hospital. “There is no travel route, no shopping trip, no school run, no work commute that is safe,” the report said.

The UK government has scheduled Hazara’s deportation for 21 October on the grounds that he would be safe in other parts of the country, he told the Guardian. But they still plan to fly him to Quetta, the Balochistan capital and his hometown, where threatening letters have been hand-delivered to the house where his wife and parents live. He worries he may not even make to his front door.

“The threatening letters that were sent to my home say very clearly if I don’t stop talking against the extremist groups or if I come back to Pakistan they will behead me,” Hazara said in a phone interview from the detention centre where he is being held.

“I fear they can just “disappear” me from the airport, because they have good contacts with the security people as well, who have been infiltrated by the religious extremists.”

Even if he does survive the journey, it is not clear where he might go if he left his job. There have been sectarian killings across Pakistan, and some of the emailed death threats have been traced to Karachi, a port city several hundred miles away from Quetta, and Hyderabad, another distant town.

“We will deal with you the same way as we do with your people in Quetta, who are sent to hell,” someone using the name Abdul Haq Jhangvi wrote to him in 2011. “We have decided to catch you alive, then, we will send your head [to] your people. We will teach you a good lesson so that no other person dares to write against the Taliban mujahideen. We will see you very soon.”

Shia Hazara mourn suidice bomb victims in Quetta
Hazara relatives attend the funeral ceremony of victims who were killed in a suicide bomb attack in Quetta this month. Photograph: Jamal Tarakai/EPA

Hazara, 36, was studying for an accountancy diploma in London when his concerns about rising sectarian violence pushed him to begin campaigning in 2009.

Outside the region, the scale of the killings is not well known and there is little pressure on Islamabad for change, while the Pakistani government has seemed largely indifferent to the steadily rising toll.

After the attack on the bus of pilgrims in 2011, the provincial chief minister, Aslam Raisani, said: “Of the millions who live in Balochistan, 40 dead [in this attack] is not a big deal. I will send a truckload of tissue papers to the bereaved families.”

Determined to try to change those attitudes, Hazara founded the Hazara United Movement, a political campaign group, organising protests and sit-ins, writing op-eds and running a campaigning blog. Among other achievements, it helped lay the ground for a House of Commons debatethis year on the situation in Balochistan.

His work did not go unnoticed at home, however. The first threats from the Taliban and Lashkar-e Jhangvi, one of Pakistan’s most vicious Sunni militant groups arrived in 2010 and 2011. After a string of emailed warnings in English, and handwritten threats in Pashtu and Urdu, Hazara claimed asylum in September 2012, based on his high-profile political activities.

His first barrister failed to present the immigration tribunal with information he had prepared detailing how the threat to his life extended beyond Quetta, Hazara said. Two subsequent reports from a legal expert were rejected by the Home Office as insufficient grounds for asylum, he says, and he was refused a request for a judicial review of the case.

“My life is genuinely in danger, and the Home Office is not listening,” said Hazara, who has been in detention since July with deportion set for next week. “I would like to request Human Rights Groups to campaign for me and exert more meaningful pressure.”


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Australia to look into Afghan attacks

October 09, 2014 | SBS News

Scott Morrison says inquiries will be made into attacks on two Afghan Hazaras with links to Australia.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison says his department will investigate allegations that two Afghan Hazaras with links to Australia have been attacked by Taliban fighters.

However, it appears he is unlikely to stop the deportation of seven other asylum seekers to the troubled country.

Refugee groups have raised concerns about the forced return of the Hazaras in the wake of the attacks, including the murder of dual Australian-Afghan citizen Sayed Habib Musawi.

Musawi was pulled off a bus while travelling from Ghazni province to Kabul, before being tortured and shot by the Taliban.

Another man, Zainullah Naseri, was reportedly tortured by the Taliban just weeks after being deported from Australia.

“Of course I would follow this up by ensuring appropriate inquiries are being made, and that’s what I have done,” Mr Morrison told reporters in Sydney.

“I’ll see where that course takes us.”

But Mr Morrison indicated the violence in Afghanistan was unlikely to prevent the deportation of the seven Hazara men.

“People who are returned in these circumstances are found not to be refugees and not owed a protection by the Australian government,” he said.


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