Australia tries to deport Syrian refugees
Australia has been making efforts to repatriate traumatized refugees from Syria who have fled foreign-backed militancy in their country despite the threats they may face after potential return, reports say.
According to The Guardian, emails obtained under freedom of information laws show that the Australian immigration department has made such moves even though the refugees have told officials they would be killed if they returned to Syria.
The emails support earlier reports back in March suggesting that Australian immigration officials had made efforts to issue an “ultimatum” to force even mentally ill refugees, who have arrived on Manus Island and Nauru, into a decision on repatriation.
In one of the emails dated January 20, Katrina Neuss, the immigration department’s operations lead on Manus Island, said “I was clear that they [refugees] would not be settled in Australia or a third country. I did say that if they chose to return home the department would work to get them home safely, with no guarantee of any time frames. The transferees were visibly upset and quite anxious, they were quite adamant that I would be sending them home to their death.”
Meanwhile, human rights experts have voiced concern over the future of the refugees.
“There is an absolute certainty that these people will be harmed or killed upon their return, and the [Australian] government’s reaction is to push them to go home without even listening to their claims for asylum,” Ben Pynt, the director of advocacy at Australia’s Humanitarian Research Partners, said.
Daniel Webb, the director of legal advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, has also warned that any coerced return of the refugees to Syria would breach international law.
Syria has been gripped by foreign-sponsored deadly violence since March 2011.
According to some sources, more than 170,000 people have been killed and millions displaced in the militancy in Syria.