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157 mostly Tamil asylum seekers from India and Sri Lanka were held at sea for over a month and are denied the right to have their claims for refugee status processed on Christmas Island. The customs vessel contained 157 people who are being held in three different rooms. An appeal was lodged on behalf of one of the male asylum seekers on board, to the High Court. The government states that the asylum seekers were permitted “approximately three hours’ outside during the day in natural light for meals”, and families are being kept separately.
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday 25th July, that the group of mostly Tamil asylum seekers, who have been held on a Customs vessel on the high seas for almost a month, would be taken to Cocos Island on 26th July then flown to the Curtin Detention Centre in remote Western Australia. The group arrived on Monday 28th. The group will undergo identity checks from Indian consular officials and none will be resettled in Australia. India has agreed to take back any of its citizens and will consider taking Sri Lankan nationals who are Indian non-citizen residents. About 66,000 Sri Lankan Tamils have been living in 110 refugee camps in Tamil Nadu for years, some since the 1980s. Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said he was confident they were economic migrants and not entitled to asylum.
These people have come from a safe country of India. They haven’t come from Sri Lanka. If we can’t take people back to India, what is next? New Zealand? India are a vibrant democracy, they are a good partner, they’re working closely with us.
Refugee lawyers are in uproar.
1) Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre executive director David Manne said
It is a fundamental principle of refugee protection that people should not have to deal with officials from the country they have fled from. People who are seeking protection should never be put in a position where they are exposed to officials from another country without a proper assessment first being made of their claims of persecution. It is completely unclear what proper role Indian officials have interviewing Sri Lankan asylum seekers.
Human rights lawyer George Newhouse, who has represented 48 asylum seekers in a High Court challenge against their detention at sea, said he was concerned confidential information about the asylum seekers would be handed to Indian officials, he said
This is policy and process on the run – it’s dangerous.
Mr Newhouse said the government’s decision had not affected the High Court challenge, which is due to be heard by the full bench of the High Court on August 5.
Asylum Seeker Resource Centre chief executive officer Kon Karapanagiotidis said
It’s unheard of – giving another government access to asylum seekers. If a person is found to be a citizen of a safe third country, that person will not be accepted as a refugee and will be returned home, so that’s the role of the legal process, not the role of bringing in another government to do that. It’s deeply problematic and I don’t think it’s fair. I question whether it is legal, and we have a legal process to deal with those questions.
Some points to reflect on that damn the Australian government for stupidity: