- Title: INDONESIA: Australia suspends Sri Lankan, Afghan asylum claims
- Date: 10th April 2010
- Summary: VARIOUS OF GIRL REFUGEE LOOKING THROUGH BARS
- Embargoed: 25th April 2010 13:00
- Location: Indonesia
- Country: Indonesia
- Topics: International Relations
- Reuters ID: LVA4J7VJWTOYHTA8ENZ05SVELTRC
- Story Text: Refugees, detained in an Indonesian detention centre, reacted on Friday (April 9) to Australia's decision to suspend the processing of new claims for asylum from Afghans and Sri Lankans as the government seeks to defuse an election-year row on immigration.
"We are living here, we have passed such difficulties to leave our homeland, our country, Afghanistan," said asylum seeker Mohammed Zainal from Afghanistan who is held in a refugee detention centre in Tanjung Pinang, Riau islands, Indonesia. "Freedom is our right. And of course we are not happy to listen (hear) this news that they have stopped the way."
"For a long time we have stayed here and we need freedom. We need freedom (UNCLEAR). Here is very hard as we do not talk to our family and we do not know what happened to our family," added a fellow Afghan detainee, Abidin.
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's government, due to seek a second term from voters late in 2010, is under pressure to halt the arrival of boatpeople off the country's remote northwest coast which has stoked public concern about border security laws.
The conservative oppositions are promising to bring back tougher border laws, if they win the 2010 election, possibly threatening Rudd's strong popularity in a country where voters are typically fractured over immigration.
"We have taken a consistently hardline approach to people smuggling and today's announcements will further strengthen the integrity of Australia's immigration system," Immigration Minister Chris Evans told reporters on Friday.
Evans said new applications from Sri Lanka will be suspended for three months, while those from Afghanistan will be suspended for six months, citing improving security in those countries.
Asylum seekers from either country are the main source of boatpeople arriving in Australia.
The Australian Greens party rejected the suspensions as "totally inhumane."
Rudd, riding high in opinion polls, is expected to win a second three-year term from voters, but his popularity has wobbled lately amid controversies over health and education, climate change policies and border security.
Rudd has been accused of being soft on border protection after dismantling Howard's hardline policies since his victory in 2007, and speeding refugee processing times.
In a little over three months this year, 1,878 immigrants and 96 crew have arrived by boat in a surge that if it continues, will make 2010 will be the biggest year yet for unauthorised arrivals on record, exceeding the 5,000 who arrived in 2001.
Last year, 2,706 asylum seekers and 115 crew made it to Australia in the first full year of the Rudd government's new immigration policies, up from 142 in 2008.
Evans said he did not expect the suspensions would immediately stem boat arrivals, but said he was hopeful that "over time" it would have an impact on regional people smuggling operations behind Australia's recent influx.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
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