Sending Afghan refugees back to their hellish land

Afghanistan is aflame, the country in ruins.

So what is the Australian government doing? Sending people back there who, you can be sure, will disappear and be killed.

This is all about removing a political issue from our shores, away from prying media interest.

Moral bankruptcy on a grand scale:

Australia and Afghanistan have finalised an agreement that will pave the way for hundreds of failed asylum-seekers to be returned to Kabul.

In a coup for the Gillard government, Canberra and Kabul have agreed on a draft memorandum of understanding, which is likely to be signed within weeks, The Australian has been told .

News of the agreement came as ASIO figures revealed the strain the constant flow of asylum-seeker boats is having on authorities. In answers to a Senate committee yesterday, ASIO said 330 asylum-seekers remained in detention while they waited for the agency to conduct security assessments.

The figures also reveal a blow-out in the number of security assessments ASIO is being asked to conduct. In the 10 months to October, 2460 boatpeople received checks, compared with 1093 for the whole of last year. The rise is consistent with the spike in unauthorised arrivals, which have hit 6224 this year, more than double the 2867 who arrived the year before.

Several sources familiar with the negotiations said the agreement would involve Afghanistan, Australia and the UNHCR.

One source said the agreement could be signed as early as next week, although another source contacted by The Australian played down that possibility. It is understood the major barrier is getting all the participants “in the same room together” to sign the document.

Crucially for Australia, the agreement is understood to include involuntary returns. Since the beginning of the year, the success rate for Afghan asylum-seekers has dropped from more than 95 per cent to about 50 per cent, meaning half of all Afghan asylum-seekers being refused refugee status could be subject to the new agreement. It is understood the memorandum of understanding will be accompanied by a comprehensive reintegration package aimed at settling returned Afghan asylum-seekers.

News of the agreement drew a critical response from Khalid Koser, a Geneva-based expert on people-smuggling and non-resident fellow at the Lowy Institute.

Dr Koser said return programs were hugely expensive, added to the pool of internally displaced people inside Afghanistan and offered no clear deterrent to would-be asylum-seekers – a key selling point of the plan.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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