Concern at suspension of processing of asylum claims

The Edmund Rice Centre today made clear its grave concern at the Australian Government's announcement of suspensions in processing of some asylum seeker claims - three months for Sri Lankan claimants and six months for Afghani claimants.

"For any asylum seeker whose identity, health and security checks have been completed, suspension of processing must be accompanied by release from detention." said ERC spokesperson Dr. John Sweeney.

"The Government's own policy establishes clear requisites for the continuance of detention, and the resolution of migration status is explicitly excluded", he said.

"When the Minister, Senator Evans, announced this policy he stated: 'once checks have been successfully completed, continued detention while immigration status is resolved is unwarranted'.”

“The Government's decision to suspend investigation of these asylum claims must not now be used as an excuse to prolong their detention." Dr Sweeney added.

"It is of vital importance that the Government now live up to its own principles. The second of these 'detention principles' states: 'a non-citizen must only be detained in a detention centre as a measure of last resort and for the shortest practicable time.'”

“We know very well the harm that detention does to people," said Dr. Sweeney, “especially the sort of open-ended detention that was part of the infamous Pacific Solution. The situations in Sri Lanka and Afghanistan continue to be very dangerous for specific groups of people. Australia has already done harm to asylum seekers in the past by convincing them that it was safe to return and it was not.”

The Edmund Rice Centre's research reports Deported to Danger I & II, and the nationally televised documentary A Well-Founded Fear, demonstrated that a number of the asylum seekers that Australia told it was safe to return, died as a consequence. Others lost family members and many are still living in hiding.

“At all costs we must avoid a reintroduction by stealth of policies which deport people back into danger – policies that Australia rightly abandoned ", Dr Sweeney concluded.

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