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Monday, April 4, 2011

Afghan MP appeals for Hazaras to stay

Kirsty Needham
April 5, 2011




Mohammad Mohaqiq ... "not fair" to send Hazaras back. Photo: Penny Stephens
THE government's toughened policy on asylum claims by Afghans has come under fire from a prominent member of the Afghan parliament.

The arrival of Mohammad Mohaqiq in Australia to plead that Hazara boat people be treated humanely and given assistance on Australian soil will raise the pressure on the Gillard government's pledge to forcibly return rejected Afghans.

''I don't think it would be fair to send them back,'' Mr Mohaqiq, a Hazara and the leader of Islamic Unity Party, said in Melbourne yesterday.

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He had come to Australia to protest to the Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, about the length of time Hazaras are spending in detention and the suicides of two young Afghan men at the Curtin and Scherger detention centres last month.

''Some people are spending a year in detention and this really concerns me,'' Mr Mohaqiq said. ''I am against people-smuggling and people entering illegally, but these people whose lives are endangered and made it all the way here, I would like the government to consider their cases kindly and save them.''

No Afghans have been deported this year, but about 50 rejected asylum seekers are reaching the end of the appeals process and may soon be eligible for return. The government says it has struck a deal for the return of Afghan asylum seekers, but this has been disputed by key Afghan politicians.

Mr Mohaqiq said he was not opposed to Afghans returning home if they chose to, but he ''by no means supports their involuntary return''.

''The people in detention have come from areas where they are in contact with the Taliban. They have escaped from places like Oruzgan … where they faced bitter experiences last year. For example, in Oruzgan 1000 families have left the area and gone to unknown destinations. ''Some have made it to different corners of the world, including Australia.. We would like [the] Australian government to consider their cases under its humanitarian program and support them and assist their cases.''

A spokesman Mr Bowen said the agreement ''allows for the sustainable return of those Afghans not considered to be genuine refugees to Afghanistan'', adding: ''It's the preference of the governments of Australia and Afghanistan, and the United Nations High Commissioner [for Refugees], that these returns be voluntary wherever possible.''

The Australian National University academic Amin Saikal said Mr Mohaqiq was one of three most powerful Shiite leaders in Afghanistan.

Source,
http://www.smh.com.au/national/afghan-mp-appeals-for-hazaras-to-stay-20110404-1cyse.html

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