Failed claims are won on appeal

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Paul Maley, National security correspondent From: The Australian March 25, 2011

MORE than half of all failed refugee claims are being overturned on review, suggesting there are major inconsistencies in the way asylum cases are being assessed by immigration officials.

According to Immigration Minister Chris Bowen 55 per cent of failed asylum claims got up on review last month, undermining attempts by authorities to lower the success rate for refugee claims as a means of deterring people smugglers.

The news will be a blow to some agencies in Canberra who have warned Immigration that the high success of refugee claims in Australia is one of the main reasons the boats keep coming.

A spokesman for Mr Bowen said decisions about refugee applications were made “independently and on a case-by-case basis”.

“This government recognises the importance of a process that includes proper and robust assessment of asylum claims in line with our obligations under the Refugee Convention, and then deals with those whose claims are rejected,” the spokesman said.

Refugee lawyer David Manne said the overturn rate suggested there were “fundamental, systemic flaws” in the refugee processing regime.

And, as authorities struggled to quell tensions inside detention centres caused by long stays in detention, Mr Manne suggested those flaws were contributing to the problem.

“The consequence of this is that many people found to be genuine refugees are being held in detention for far longer than necessary and being harmed in the process,” Mr Manne said.

The overturn rate for Afghans was slightly lower, 49 per cent.

Afghans have traditionally comprised the single largest category of asylum-seeker coming to Australia by boat.

Both figures are for the month leading up to March 14.

However, several sources have told The Australian the success rate on appeal had until recently been much higher, consistently tracking at over 70 per cent.

Immigration has previously sought to explain away inconsistencies between the often very different conclusions drawn by first-instance decision makers and reviewers, which are usually based on the same information and always judged against the same criteria.

The department has said fresh information can become available on review.

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison told The Australian the overturn rate for boat people was twice what it was for onshore applicants.

“The reviewers clearly have a more liberal view to those making the initial assessments,” Mr Morrison said. “This large discrepancy in findings must be explained.”

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