Australian Intelligence assessment leaves refugees in limbo

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 13 January 2010, 16:00 GMT]
The rejection for asylum of 5 Tamil refugees, including a mother and two children, by the Australian Government due to undisclosed ‘security fears’ has left them in limbo amid a game of "political football" say human rights advocates, who have urged the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) to reveal its security assessment, citing past failures by the organisation.

The group, who had recently been detained en-route to Australia by customs officials before being moved to an offshore detention centre must now seek another country for refuge, despite being declared as genuine refugees by the UNHCR.

"What I can say is that it's crucial that there be independent scrutiny of any assessments by ASIO, because the fact is that ASIO has made some serious mistakes in the past in these sorts of cases” said refugee lawyer and advocate David Manne in an interview with Australian media.

Manne, who helped free two Iraqis held at another offshore detention facility on the grounds of negative assessments by ASIO (Australian Security Intelligence Organisation) in 2006, called for an urgent overhaul of the review process, saying that those in question were not given any indication of the accusations being made against them, nor an opportunity to challenge the findings.

"They [the assessment] can result in many, many years of detention for people who are very vulnerable and may well have already experienced significant trauma in their lives" Manne told reporters.

Although ASIO has refused to divulge the security assessment of the 5 refugees, media circles and politicans have assumed possible links with the LTTE, a fact which some argue should be seen within context and ultimately dismissed when assessing claims of asylum.

"Most of the people who have lived in the north or eastern region of Sri Lankan and even in the south-eastern province could easily have had some kind of contact, linkages to the Tamil Tigers over a period of time" said Dr Martin Mulligan from RMIT University in Melbourne.

"We really have to show a little generosity here and understand the past in where these people may have lived in situations where the Tamil Tigers may have been in control of a whole area" he said in an interview.


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