News / Asia

Australia Debates Tougher Asylum Rules

Fishing boat carrying Vietnamese asylum seekers nears shore of Australia's Christmas Island, April 14, 2013. (file photo)
Fishing boat carrying Vietnamese asylum seekers nears shore of Australia's Christmas Island, April 14, 2013. (file photo)
Phil Mercer
— As Australia struggles with how to respond to a surge in arrivals of asylum seekers, the government is considering tightening rules for granting refugee visas. Critics say the changes could make it easier to reject asylum seekers from Iran, Afghanistan and Vietnam.
 
Canberra insists that most of the thousands of asylum seekers traveling to Australia by boat are not refugees but are, in fact, economic migrants.

Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr argued that the assessment process is flawed and needs to be changed to make it harder for those seeking asylum to be successful.
 
When an asylum seeker arrives in Australia, their claim is first processed by immigration authorities. If a claim is rejected, it is referred to the Refugee Review Tribunal, an independent appeals body. Government officials say the Tribunal has recently been overturning about 80 percent of decisions made by the Immigration department.
 
The Tribunal is now being told to take into account information from the Department of Foreign Affairs when deciding cases involving asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Iran and Vietnam.
 
Critics believe the government wants to make some deportations easier by declaring those three countries safe to return asylum seekers. But Carr said a tougher stand against economic migrants is needed.

“Well, there have been some boats where 100 percent of them have been people who are fleeing countries where they're the majority ethnic and religious group and their motivations are altogether economic,” he said.
 
The number of asylum seekers has been steadily rising this year, and will surpass the 14,415 recorded in 2011-2012.
 
Former members of the Refugee Review Tribunal, including Bruce Haigh, a retired diplomat, deny accusations that the system is too lenient and needs to be toughened. Haigh says the foreign minister is overstepping his authority.
 
“He can't direct a tribunal to take account information supplied from a government source," Haigh said. "They can be requested; they can be urged to consider this information, but they can't be directed. You can only question what Foreign Affairs have been asked or tasked to do with respect to producing information that makes it appear as though people can return to these countries.”
 
In the past week, at least 12 asylum seekers, including a baby boy, have drowned near Christmas Island, Australia’s remote Indian Ocean territory.  Scores of people were rescued by Australian authorities.
 
Refugee advocates say tougher asylum measures expected to be announced by the Labor government in the coming days have caused a recent surge in the number of unauthorized arrivals by boat, often from Indonesia.  Ministers say stricter measures are needed to deter boat people, and save lives.
 
Immigration is expected to be a key issue in an Australian federal election scheduled for mid September.
 
Canberra grants refugee visas to about 13,000 people each year under various international agreements.

You May Like

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnelsi
X
July 24, 2014 4:42 AM
The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video MH17's 'Black Boxes' Could Reveal Crash Details

The government of Malaysia now has custody of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was hit by a missile over Ukraine before crashing last week. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the so-called black boxes may hold information about the final minutes of the flight.
Video

Video Living in the Shadows Panel Discussion

Following a screening of the new VOA documentary, "AIDS - Living in the Shadows," at the World AIDS conference in Melbourne, a panel discussed the film and how to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid