November 15, 2011
THE federal government will deport the first asylum seeker to Afghanistan this week under a controversial return agreement with the Afghan government.
Ismail Mirzajan, 27, has been told he is scheduled to be moved from the Villawood detention centre in Sydney and flown to Kabul on Saturday.
Mr Mirzajan, from Afghanistan's Hazara ethnic minority, fled the country as a 17-year-old a decade ago and has not been back since. The removal notice says he will be charged $32,782 for the deportation, which will be escorted.
The Afghan embassy in Australia is understood to be unhappy with deportations of its nationals. A prominent Hazara politician travelled to Australia this year to argue that returns should be voluntary.
A spokesman for Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said: ''Australia's agreement allows for the return of those Afghans not considered to be genuine refugees to Afghanistan.''
Refugee groups have complained to the Australian Human Rights Commission against Mr Mirzajan's deportation. His cause has also been taken up by church and support groups.
An Immigration Department spokesman said: ''Country information indicates that a returned Afghan national would not solely by being present in Kabul face a genuine risk of being killed or seriously injured.''
He said Mr Mirzajan's application for refugee status had been rejected by the Refugee Review Tribunal and the Federal Magistrates Court.
Mr Mirzajan arrived in Australia by plane in February 2010, having fled Afghanistan in 2001. He first went to Pakistan, then Iran and Greece before seeking refugee status in Britain in 2002. He was refused asylum in 2004 and went to Ireland, where he was allowed to stay temporarily, before travelling to Australia.
Rejecting his claim, the Refugee Review Tribunal said Mr Mirzajan had initially lied about his story. He had told officials at the airport he left Afghanistan in January 2010. Mr Mirzajan says he was coached
by people smugglers to change his story.
Advocates said the length of time he has been away from Afghanistan demonstrated the plight of Hazaras who felt it unsafe to return while the war against the Taliban continued. Earlier this year, The Age reported that up to 20 of the 179 asylum seekers returned to Afghanistan after the 2001 Tampa controversy had been killed by the Taliban.
Australian National University Afghanistan expert William Maley said the government needed to be very careful about sending Hazaras back to Afghanistan as the security situation in Kabul deteriorated.
The department spokesman said Australia did not return people to their country of origin where it would contravene human rights obligations.
Mr Bowen's spokesman said: ''It's a fundamental part of our immigration system that if people are found not to be genuine refugees that they should be removed.''
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