No deportations to danger
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The Australian government is currently attempting to deport Afghan Hazara asylum seeker, Ismail Mirza Jan, to Afghanistan. Never before has an Afghan national been forcibly removed from Australia to Afghanistan.
This would be a new low in Australia’s refugee policy, with the Labor Government sinking even further than the Howard Government in pursuing deporations to danger. Even high-ranking ministers in the Western-backed Afghan government have questioned Australia’s right to forcibly repatriate Afghan asylum seekers from Australia. If Ismail is deported, this will open the way for the deportation of scores of Afghan, and potentially other, asylum seekers – back to war torn countries, impending danger, or even a death sentence. Two Tamil asylum seekers, Emil and Vithuran, too were only saved from deportation by last minute legal action in December.
Deportations to death
The Gillard government risks repeating the disastrous record of the Howard government–which deported Afghans back to danger and death. There was a similar freeze on Afghan asylum seekers imposed by the Howard government in late 2001 when the US invaded Afghanistan. Following the invasion, Afghan asylum seekers were deported from Nauru.
Last year the Sydney Morning Herald investigated the fate of refugees from the Tampa, who were turned away from Australia by the navy in 2001. Mostly Hazaras, 179 of them were sent back to Afghanistan. Ten years on, “Up to 20 have been reported killed, dozens more have disappeared.” Of those that have survived, “most live on the fringes, in refugee camps or separated from family in unfamiliar cities.”
One, Sawar, had been home in his village in Ghazni province just a week when a group of men, “took him from his house… dragged him outside and choked him to death with barbed wire.”
Abdul Azmin Rajabi saw his nine and six year old daughters Yalda and Rowena killed as a consequence of his being targeted four months after he was returned.
In November the government began moves to deport a 27 year-old Hazara Afghan asylum seeker, Ismail Mirza Jan, from Villawood detention centre to Kabul, Afghanistan. This would be the first forced deportation since the Memorandum of Understanding signed last year.
Ismail fled Afghanistan in 2001, after his father was killed. His province, Wardak, remains notoriously dangerous for Hazaras. Like so many other Hazaras, Ismail has been told he can return to Kabul, but Ismail is not from Kabul. Besides the danger, Ismail has no family, no community ties, no social support and no hope. Neither Ismail nor any other asylum seeker should be returned to Afghanistan.
Deported to Danger reports produced by the Edmund Rice Centre (ERC)
The ERC has produced two detailed reports investigating the fate of asylum seekers deported by the Howard government, including many to Afghanistan. They are available online at
http://x.co/gMst or visit www.erc.org.au
A Well Founded Fear
A documentary film has also been produced based on the work of the ERC, which screened on SBS in 2008
The Tampa: ten years on
The Sydney Morning Herald investigation ten years after on the Tampa is online at