ERC research in Afghanistan uncovers grave dangers faced by deportees from Australia

Deportations research just conducted in Afghanistan by the respected Australian social justice organisation, Edmund Rice Centre, has revealed further horrors confronted by asylum seekers who have been returned there by the Australian Government.

“In this visit to Kabul, further to our previous visits, we met and interviewed another 31 returned asylum seekers. 29 of these 31 are living in extreme danger,” affirmed ERC Director, Phil Glendenning. “We confirmed the deaths of another two returnees and the kidnapping of one other who is now presumed dead.” 

“The majority of these men are unable to live with their wives and children because of the risk their simple presence would pose to the safety of their family,” he said. “We were able to find a 17 year old boy who was sent back from Australia last year and has ended up living on the street.” 

“One man I interviewed had recently survived a rocket being fired through his house. His wife and his father were killed instantly. He lives now in hiding in Kabul - along with his six children – all under the age of nine.” 

“The returnees are being actively targeted for having left the country, because they are seen as being favourable to the West, and many are falsely held to have converted to Christianity. According to the Independent Human Rights Commission the situation is deteriorating rapidly and security just fifteen minutes on the road to Ghazni cannot be guaranteed,” Mr Glendenning continued. 

“We hold deep concern as to both the accuracy and independence of the information about the security situation for civilians in Afghanistan that was provided to asylum seekers whilst held in Australia’s detention centres. The evidence provided by the returnees at interview indicates the systemic use of deception as part of a strategy to coerce acceptance of voluntary repatriation or to encourage acquiescence to forcible removal from Australia.” 

“These asylum seekers and their families should never have been returned to Afghanistan. They must not now continue to be forgotten,” he said.

“The Edmund Rice Centre is recommitting to doing three things: firstly, publishing the results of our research of the deportees’ cases for the UN and the Australian Government; secondly, with this research lobbying in Australia and internationally for changes and increased safeguards and oversight; thirdly, rebuilding public awareness to highlight the appalling mistakes made and the need for Australia to take responsibility for what we have done, and to work to get these poor people finally to safety.” 

“In the past the Edmund Rice Centre has had some success in advocating through the UN for the asylum seekers deported from Australia to achieve resettlement in the US, UK, Canada, NZ and Sweden. This year we will be taking this humanitarian appeal to these same nations again,” Mr Glendenning said. 

“It is hard to believe we share the same planet. At some stage our nation has got to recover its humanity. I think that doing whatever we can to help those thrown away by us is a step in that direction.”

Over the past ten years the Edmund Rice Centre has conducted research into what happens to Australia's rejected asylum seekers. Two major reports have been published Deported to Danger and Deported to Danger II – leading to the making of the television documentary, A Well Founded Fear, which screened nationally in 2008. 

For interview or comment contact:- 
Phil Glendenning: (02)8762-4200 or Sean Cleary: (02)8090-1976

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