Australia urged to assess refugee claims without external influence

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 12 January 2010, 08:07 GMT]
Grave fears remain for the safety of 4 Tamils after their application for asylum in Australia was denied due to suspected links with Tamil militant groups, the Australian media has reported. The group faces the possibility of deportation despite being assessed as genuine refugees by the UNHCR, as advocacy groups and politicians urged the Rudd Government to assess asylum claims on individual merit without influence from intelligence organisations and the SL Government.

The Australian Immigration Department confirmed earlier this week that 3 men and women, who had spent a month on board the Australian customs ship “Oceanic Viking”, had been denied visas after being deemed as security risks by ASIO (Australian Security Intelligence Organization).

“The last thing the Rudd Government should do is leave ASIO to be the arbiter of who comes into this country" Senator Bob Brown told ABC news, warning authorities that they “must never in a democracy leave ASIO to be making decisions in such matters without there being careful scrutiny by the parliament itself".

Australia’s refusal to grant visas to the 4 refugees has also raised questions over the influence the Sri Lankan Government was having on the claims process, with Australian Tamil Congress (ATC) spokesperson Dr Sam Pari urging the Government to “investigate each immigration case on its merits”.

“These people have been deemed by the UNHCR to be legitimate refugees and should therefore be given a second chance at life in a peaceful country where they are safe from persecution” she said in a statement on behalf of the organization.

“We hope Australia’s security agencies are not only relying on advice provided by the Government of Sri Lanka to reach these decisions”.

Concerns over Sri Lanka’s influence on countries housing hundreds of Tamil refugees who have fled Northern Sri Lanka have increased after claims in the Australian media that Indonesian authorities allowed Sri Lankan Government officials’ access to several Tamil refugees currently being held within a detention centre where they were threatened with the prospect of deportation to the Boosa Prison in Sri Lanka.

“Sri Lanka is a country with a very dubious human rights record against ethnic minorities, including Tamils. These concerns are well documented in numerous reports by the United Nations, Amnesty International and the US State Department” the ATC statement highlighted.


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