Tag Archives: DIAC

First Nauru asylum seekers might earn refugee status in days

July 06, 2013

The secretary of justice in Nauru, Lionel Aingimea, says he expects to make decisions on the refugee status of some of the first asylum seekers to arrive on the island within weeks.

Australia has made no secret of its intention to slow the process, but it’s being handled by Nauruan officials with assistance from the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship, or DIAC.

Don Wiseman asked Mr Aingimea how many of the now 521 asylum seekers on the islands have had their claims assessed.

LIONEL AINGIMEA: Well, quite a few have had their refugee status looked at. We haven’t gone through all of them because the numbers keep increasing. We do have a number of Nauruan refugee status determination officers that are working with Australian immigration officials who also have expertise in regard to determining the status of refugees. And the interviews are ongoing.

DON WISEMAN: When you say they’re done, they’re completed, they’ve been finished.

LA: Yes, while the interviews have been completed, the research that is necessary to determine the bona fides has been done also. Not all of them, but certainly the first arrivees. And they should be coming to my desk in the coming weeks so that we can start determining those that need to be declared as genuine refugees.

DW: There doesn’t seem to be much of a sense of urgency about it.

LA: There is an urgency about this. We understand that we need to get cracking on this and the Nauru government is working very hard to meet its obligations under our laws.

DW: So you expect to get it next week. When do you think you are going to be in a position to say yea or nay on refugee status? And who makes that final decision?

LA: The final decision will rest on the office of the Secretary of Justice and Border Control. It basically rests with me. And we’re expecting decisions to be coming out next week or early in the following week.

DW: How much input does DIAC have into that?

LA: DIAC does help [Nauru’s] refugee status determination officers. They do help, but most of the work is by the Nauruan officers.

DW: If they achieve refugee status, and the expectation from the refugee activist groups is that a large number of them will, most of them will, and that’s what happened last time around, what will happen then? Have they got countries prepared to take them?

LA: Well, there are ongoing discussions in regard to having countries to accept those who have been declared to be genuine refugees, but that’s at a higher level. That needs to be done at a ministerial level, and those discussions are also ongoing.

DW: There has been talk right from the start that the inmates in the camp…

LA: That’s a very bad word. That’s a bad word to use. We don’t consider them to be inmates. The court of Nauru did not find them as inmates, also. There was a habeas corpus decision. That’s a wrong word to use.

DW: Well, they’re incarcerated. They’re not freely roaming.

LA: They are not incarcerated, they’re asylum seekers, they’re having the status determined to see whether they’re genuine refugees or not, and to call them anything else I think is just wrong.

DW: They’re not freely roaming the island.

LA: At the moment there are visa conditions they have to abide by, and like everybody else on Nauru there are laws we have to abide by and if one breaches the laws you’ll be put in jail, but at the moment they’re not in jail.

DW: But they’re held in a form of custody, aren’t they?

LA: Well, we don’t think they are. That’s a matter of opinion.

DW: Well, yes, it is. In terms of them having full free access to the island, will that happen the moment they’re given refugee status?

LA: The government is working with the Australian officials to have in place an open centre once refugee status determination has been done and they have been determined to be refugees.

Source: http://www.rnzi.com/pages/news.php?op=read&id=77338

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Questions over asylum seeker’s death at Villawood detention centre

June 21, 2013

Ahmad Ali Jafari, photographed outside the Sydney Opera House

Ahmad Ali Jafari, photographed outside the Sydney Opera House. Mr Jafari is the fifth asylum seeker to die in Australian detention in the past year.

Disturbing claims have emerged over the circumstances of an asylum seeker’s death at Sydney’s Villawood detention centre.

It is understood the 26-year-old Afghan man, Ali Ahmad Jafari, died of a heart attack.

Fellow detainees say guards were slow to come to his aid and it took more than an hour to call an ambulance.

Furthermore, refugee advocates say Mr Jafari, who was an Afghan Hazara, was only in detention because of a bureaucratic mistake.

On Thursday night, he became the 14th asylum seeker to die in Australia’s detention system in the past five years.

Ali Madadrazaie met Mr Jafari in detention about eight months ago and described him as “the greatest guy”.

He told the ABC’s PM program Mr Jafari’s room-mate raised the alarm after Mr Jafari returned from the gym and complained of pains in his chest.

“He went to call the officers, c’mon guys, this guy is in so much pain, c’mon do something for him, and they just said to him like, ‘oh, I think you guys are joking’,” he said.

“They just took four, five – more than five minutes… after then when the officers came [to] look at him, and they called the supervisor.

“The supervisor came then, they make sure after that they call the nurses. His pain was probably from 6pm, and [it was] 7:30 when he get to ambulance.”

Villawood detainees found out Mr Jafari had died in hospital when police arrived at the detention centre around 9pm on Thursday.

Police determined there were no suspicious circumstances and are now preparing a report for the coroner.

Jafari healthy, but concerned about his future

Mr Madadrazaie and refugee advocates who knew Mr Jafari say he had appeared fit and healthy, though anguished about his position in detention.

But, according to Mr Madadrazaie, he had problems sleeping and took heavy doses of sleeping tablets.

His pain was probably from 6pm, and [it was] 7:30 when he get to ambulance.

Ali Madadrazaie, one of Ahmad Jafari’s friends

“He was in the gym for 15-20 minutes, every day he always doing gym like 15-20 minutes to get a bit tired to go to bed, get sleep, cause he couldn’t get sleep and he was just using sleeping tablets all the time,” he told PM.

Others say the stress of his predicament contributed to his fate.

Ahsan Ali Khan is also Hazara and now lives in Sydney on a protection visa. He was to welcome Mr Jafari into his family as a brother-in-law.

Mr Khan says the young man was fit, but the system took its toll.

“Apparently he was always happy but he was sort of person he always take all the stress into himself, tried not to appear the stress to another person,” he told the ABC’s Lateline program.

“And I am sure the stress is only reason that killed him.”

Refugee advocates argue Mr Jafari should not even have been in detention.

They say he spent periods of his life fleeing danger.

His mother took him and his siblings to Quetta in Pakistan when he was 10 after his father was suspected to have been killed by the Taliban.

He later sought asylum in the UK but was deported back to Afghanistan in 2009, apparently because his grounds for protection were deemed to be insufficient.

Then he fled to Australia and arrived on Christmas Island in 2010, saying he had been beaten by the Taliban.

His claim for asylum was rejected and he appealed the decision.

He had spent most of the past three years in detention. According to refugee advocates, the Immigration Department allowed Mr Jafari to live in the community in February 2012.

But seven months later he was detained again at Villawood.

‘The process he had been through was flawed’

Ian Rintoul, spokesman for the Refugee Action Coalition, told PM that was based on a bureaucratic mistake.

“He was brought back into detention in September 2012, supposedly because of a conviction for some offence in Britain,” he said.

“But that turned out to be false and he got a police clearance in May this year, but Immigration certainly hadn’t acted on that clearance.”

Another supporter also criticised the department’s handling of Mr Jafari’s asylum claim. Graeme Swincer was a regular visitor and saw the young man on the day he died.

“The process that he had been through I believe was a very flawed process and it is for many others. And politically dominated process. And that it denied him recognition as a refugee,” he told Lateline.

Mr Swincer said a British police certificate shows the department was wrong.

“Someone in authority should have immediately apologised and said, ‘sorry, we got it wrong’,” he said.

“Here is the evidence – the police in the UK have done a thorough investigation and they find absolutely no trace of any criminal connections.”

Mr Jafari’s relatives are now in mourning.

Mr Khan told Lateline: “Taliban attitudes were easy to cope with because they just shot you straight in the head and nothing else. Everything is gone.

“But Australia’s immigration system keep torturing you day and night.”

The ABC asked the Immigration Department to respond to the claims about Mr Jafari’s death and detention, but it declined.

The department is providing counselling for Hazara detainees at Villawood.

Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-06-21/questions-over-asylum-seeker-death-at-villawood-detention-centre/4773080

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The changing face of asylum seekers

May 31, 2013

A growing number of Iranians are making their way to Australia by boat, new figures from the Department of Immigration show.

A growing number of Iranians are making their way to Australia by boat, new figures from the Department of Immigration show.

Of more than 10,000 asylum seekers that have attempted the journey to Australia by boat since the start of the year, 3275 are from Iran.

The figure shows a steady increase from the 2749 Iranian asylum seekers that arrived across the whole of 2012, just over 1500 arrivals in 2011 and fewer still in 2010.

The statistics also show increasing numbers of asylum seekers from Bangladesh (393) and Vietnam (592).

In contrast, the number of Sri Lankans attempting the journey appears to be slowing, with 1302 boat arrivals this year, down from more than 6400 last year.

Nationalities of irregular boat arrivals for 2013 (to date) 

Stateless – 1110
Afghan – 1515
Iranian – 3275
Bangladeshi – 393
Pakistani – 751
Burmese (Myanmar) – 201
Iraqi – 503
Vietnamese – 592
Sri Lankan – 1302
Sudanese – 195
Somali – 74
Other – 284

Nationalities for 2012 arrivals

Sri Lankan – 6428
Afghan – 4256
Iranian – 2749
Pakistani – 1173
Stateless – 1241
Iraqi – 912
Other – 443

Nationalities 2011 arrivals

Afghan – 1603
Iranian – 1581
Stateless – 379
Iraqi – 326
Sri Lankan – 211
Pakistani – 188
Vietnamese – 101
Burmese – 76
Palestinian – 49
Syrian – 33
Other – 18

Source: http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/1773102/The-changing-face-of-asylum-seekers

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DIAC to process asylum backlog

May 30, 2013

DIAC to process asylum backlog

The immigration department says it will start processing the 19,000 asylum seekers who arrived by boat after August 2012 in the coming weeks.

Immigration department secretary Martin Bowles told a Senate budget estimates hearing on Tuesday that the would-be refugees, spread out across regional processing centres and the Australian mainland, would be processed from June.

There had been speculation that the department had stalled their claims because of the government’s ‘no advantage’ principle, introduced in August 2012. Under this principle, asylum seekers gain no benefit by coming to Australia by boat.

Previously, it’s been suggested this could see boat arrivals detained for up to five years.

Mr Bowles denied the delay was due to the no advantage principle, saying the department had always expected processing of the 19,000 would take time.

‘We’re getting there and we will start (processing) shortly,’ he told the committee.

He said applications had not been frozen or stopped.

‘It’s not as though we just leave these people in a grey world around processing,’ he said.

‘We are in contact with them, we have a case management system.’

Mr Bowles said while the no advantage principle would not affect the initial processing stages, it would delay the issuing of a visa by a couple of months or ‘a little bit longer’.

Source: http://www.skynews.com.au/national/article.aspx?id=875677

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Boat people genuine refugees

May 21, 2013

More than 90 per cent of boat people were found to be genuine refugees in the March quarter, figures to be released on Monday show.

But asylum seekers who arrived by plane – despite being eligible for release into the community – were almost twice as likely to be rejected as refugees.

The new figures come after the government, with Coalition support, passed its changes to the Migration Act that introduce explicit discrimination against asylum seekers based on their method of arrival.

All asylum seekers who arrive by boat will now be subject to the no-advantage rules, meaning they could face up to five years’ detention in Manus Island or Nauru, and if released into the community, they would not be allowed to work for five years.

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The figure for the March quarter for genuine refugees who arrive by boat – 90.5 per cent – continues a long-term trend, with 93.5 per cent of those who arrived by boat being found to be refugees in 2010-11, and 91 per cent in 2011-12.

Many asylum seekers initially given a negative assessment had their case overturned on appeal: 65.3 per cent were given primary approval for a protection visa in the March quarter.

Immigration Minister Brendan O’Connor announced on budget day that the government would commission a review of visa determinations to ensure Australia’s approval rate was consistent with other countries. ”We accept that we need to abide by the [UN] refugee convention,” he said.

Source: http://www.dailylife.com.au/opinion/political-news/boat-people-genuine-refugees-20130519-2juvg.html

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Senator refused access to hunger strikers

April 17, 2013

Image

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young says she has been banned from visiting a group of Tamil and Burmese refugees who are on their tenth day of a hunger strike at the Broadmeadows detention centre in Melbourne.

Senator Hanson-Young says the Immigration Minister’s office told her yesterday that she would not be allowed to see the group.

The men have been granted refugee status, but are being detained indefinitely after being denied an ASIO security clearance.

Ms Hanson-Young says she was given no reason for her visit being cancelled, but was told it would “not be helpful” at this time.

“I said that I was flexible with the time, that I was happy to go in at another time,” she told ABC local radio.

“They said you will not be seeing these people.”

Senator Hanson-Young is asking the minister to reconsider.

“I hope that we can help these people move beyond this awful circumstance that they’re in,” she said.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard says she is not aware that the Senator has been banned.

“That would be an assessment made about security and people being worked up and all of that sort of stuff,” she said.

“I’m sure it would have been an assessment made with the welfare of asylum seekers first and foremost in people’s minds.”

Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-04-17/senator-refused-access-to-hunger-strikers/4634202

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Immigration criticises own Manus asylum centre

April 16, 2013

Manus Island regional immigration processing centre

Manus Island regional immigration processing centre

The Immigration Department has delivered a scathing assessment of its own temporary accommodation for asylum seekers on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island, saying the living arrangements are cramped and present “key risks in terms of safety and health”.

In a submission to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, the department states there is an urgent need to replace the regional processing centre with a permanent facility.

The temporary centre has been set up with army-style tents and portable-style buildings for accommodation, ablutions, catering and administrative purposes.

It currently houses 276 asylum seekers and can cater for a maximum of 500.

The department’s submission states the centre has no reliable power supply, limited potable water and the buildings and tents have a “very short life expectancy”.

It says the military-style tents are subject to “degradation from humidity and high use” and “each tent has reticulated 240v power which can be unsafe in wet conditions”.

“Transferees have complained about the heat which is a contributing factor to behavioural issues,” the submission states.

“In addition the site is in a low-lying swampy area subject to localised inundation which encourages mosquito breeding.”

 

It says the centre has limited recreational facilities that are in a poor state, and points to that as a contributing factor of increased tension.

“Transferees are subject to boredom which contributes to a focus on the progress of their refugee status determination,” the submission states.

“Past experience in the Australian immigration detention network indicates that limited amenity and space quickly leads to behavioural changes which in turn can lead to substantial increases in health and security costs.

“This includes an increased risk of self-harm, mental health problems, and problematic behaviour.”

Even the centre’s most basic function – processing the asylum seeker claims – is compromised.

“Private interview rooms at the temporary facility do not have adequate infrastructure to support processing of refugee status assessments,” the submission states.

It says the PNG government has not agreed to a permanent facility on the current site and “an alternative site is under consideration”.

Once a new site has been approved, the submission states, the PNG government expects a permanent centre to be built “as a priority”.

The department says the new centre is being designed to accommodate 600 people, including families and other vulnerable groups, at an estimated cost of $171 million.

It will provide improved amenities, including a gym, sports fields, canteen, library and separate rooms for education, computer use and religious purposes.

There will also be purpose-built accommodation for 200 staff.

Construction is planned to begin in July and is expected to take about six months.

‘Absolute disgrace’

The submission has prompted Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young to again call for children and families to be transferred off Manus Island.

“The Manus Island detention centre is an absolute disgrace,” she said.

“It’s inhumane, it’s unsafe and it is making refugees, including children in particular, very, very sick.”

The Immigration Department has also confirmed that a fourth refugee involved in a hunger strike at Melbourne’s Broadmeadows centre was last night taken to hospital.

A group of about two dozen mainly Tamil refugees has been refusing food for more than a week.

They have been granted refugee status but are being detained because they have been denied a security clearance by ASIO.

The president of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Professor Gillian Triggs, says refugees should be able to appeal such assessments.

“Non-citizens – and these are non citizens, albeit refugees – do not have a right to appeal to the usual processes that are available through the administrative appeals tribunal, and that means that they’re completely cut out from any reasonable capacity to have judicial review,” she said.

Meanwhile, some of the Sri Lankan asylum seekers who arrived by boat at the Western Australian town ofGeraldton last week appear destined to be flown back home.

A total of 66 asylum seekers were on the boat which made it all the way to the harbour town without being detected by border protection authorities.

It was the first time an asylum seeker boat had made it to the mainland in five years.

Immigration Minister Brendan O’Connor says there will be an announcement “very shortly” about sending some of the arrivals back to Sri Lanka.

Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-04-16/immigration-report-scathing-of-manus-island-centre/4632728

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