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September 29, 2012

QUESTIONS REMAIN OVER GOVERNMENT MISLEADING SINHALESE ASYLUM SEEKERS; LAWYERS MUST HAVE ACCESS TO NAURU

by refugeeactioncoalitionsydney

There is evidence that the government is deliberately using the “voluntary” repatriation of Sinhalese asylum seekers to cover-up its failure to provide legal advice to asylum seekers arriving after 13 August.

“The six Sri Lankans from Villawood who were flown back to Sri Lanka today (Saturday 27 September) were all Sinhalese. And all of them have been promised money in return for agreeing to return to Sri Lanka.

“The six had arrived by boat just before 13 August, so were not among those who could be sent to Nauru. But doubts remain over what exactly they had been told,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“The government has some history of targeting Sinhalese for prosecution as people smugglers although there have been no successful prosecutions. Media reports that one of those returned last week had been denied his $3,300 repatriation package because he ‘took the wheel’ of the asylum boat add to suspicions that these asylum seekers are being misled. Boats from Sri Lanka are routinely operated by asylum seekers themselves, so do not have ‘crew’.

“Unless asylum seekers have independent legal advice, there can be no confidence that they are not being tricked into voluntarily returning.

“The government has already filled its temporary quota of asylum seekers on Nauru. Given the numbers of asylum seekers who have arrived since the 13 August, there is a very good chance that asylum seekers will not be sent to Nauru at all. Yet the government is using the threat to coerce people into returning.

“But, no number of ‘voluntary’ returns can hide the fact of on-going repression in Sri Lanka – for Sinhalese and Tamils. Over 3,600 Sri Lankan, mostly Tamil, asylum seekers have arrived this year. The return of a handful of, mostly Sinhalese, Sri Lankans only highlights the legitimacy of the vast majority of Sri Lankan asylum seekers arriving in Australia.

“By failing to provide independent advice to all those seeking asylum, the government may be both violating their human rights, in Australia and Nauru as well as sending them back to danger.”

For more information contact Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713

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