THE GREENS | Spokesperson Sarah Hanson-Young
Tuesday 14th December 2010
Any agreement by the Federal Government to send asylum-seekers back to Afghanistan is another signal that the Prime Minister doesn’t understand the plight of Hazaras in that country, according to Senator Sarah Hanson-Young.
Senator Hanson-Young, Greens spokesperson on Immigration, says suggestions that an imminent agreement will include approval for involuntary returns are extremely worrying.
“We are fighting a war in Afghanistan, and our Prime Minister says that Australian troops may be required for 10 or even 20 years, so how can we categorically tell people that it is safe to go back?” Senator Hanson-Young said.
“Even the Foreign Minister has reportedly told the U.S that the conflict in Afghanistan “scares the hell out of him” – so how are vulnerable asylum-seekers expected to feel if they are being returned to an unsafe environment against their will?
“Once again, the Federal Government is getting its priorities wrong. Those who are not genuine refugees should be sent home where it is safe to do so, but there is no evidence to suggest that Afghanistan is suddenly safer for Hazaras, who make up the vast majority of asylum-seekers arriving in Australia.
How can we believe the Afghan Government saying Hazaras will be safe when they cannot even protect their own voters in their elections?
“What basis is the Australian Government using to determine it is safe to send asylum-seekers home to Afghanistan, when the UN’s own country information says that conditions have not improved, particularly for Hazaras. The Government must provide clear evidence that this traditionally persecuted group no longer need protection.
“The Lowy Institute yesterday released a paper reinforcing the message that there is no crisis in asylum-seeker arrivals, and that if there has to be an increased focus, it should be on those who arrive by plane with visas, rather than those who arrive by boat.
“The Lowy Institute paper also quotes the UN Secretary-General’s report to the Security Council in June this year, which said that in the previous three months in Afghanistan there were 420 incidents of child rights violations including the killing or maiming of 332 children.
“The question remains – why are we contemplating sending people back into harm’s way?
“We know that when people were returned involuntarily to countries like Afghanistan under the Howard government, that this often had tragic results, with people attacked or killed. We do not want to see a repeat of those events.
“As long as we remain fighting an ongoing war in Afghanistan, and Hazaras continue to be persecuted, we cannot forcibly return people to a clearly unsafe environment.”