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Thursday, December 06, 2012 - 5.42 GMT

Australian Immigration Minister defends asylum screening


The Immigration Minister of Australia Chris Bowen is defending the practice of screening out asylum seekers, saying it is entirely appropriate.

Minister Bowen won't rule out sending back to Sri Lanka any of the 56 Tamil asylum seekers who have agreed to drop a High Court challenge against their removal from Australia.

The group, in detention in Darwin, was due to have their case heard on Thursday, World News Australia reported.

At issue is the practice of "screening out", where asylum seekers are asked to explain why they came to Australia and the circumstances in their home country.

The federal government has agreed to let the group stay and have their claims processed either in Australia or offshore, subject to 24 hours notice of their involuntary return to Sri Lanka.

When asked if the government intended to return the Tamils, Mr Bowen told ABC Radio: "There will be a range of circumstances in place for those individuals.

"I won't go into those individual cases."

Mr Bowen defended the way some asylum seekers were being screened out, saying it was one of the mechanisms to deal with those people coming to Australia for "economic purposes".

"Yes, it's controversial but it's entirely appropriate," he said.

Meanwhile, the Australian Immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said the Australian government would tow boats back to Sri Lanka to help stem the flow of asylum seekers bound for Australia.

Mr Morrison, speaking from Nauru, said Australia should bolster Sri Lanka's maritime resources to prevent people from leaving.

''We believe the more effective way to deter [arrivals] here is firstly to support the Sri Lankan government with their interceptions at source whether at sea or land [and] secondly, in the event that the vessels get towards Australia they should be intercepted outside of our waters and arrangements made for their immediate transfer to the safe hands of international agencies that are already on the ground in Sri Lanka, particularly the UNHCR and IOM.''

Mr Morrison said the Coalition would boost Sri Lanka's naval resources, ''just like we would do where requested or where supported in Indonesia as well''. He said the Coalition's tow-back policy, in which asylum boats would be returned to Indonesia where safe to do so, had been mocked by the government because Indonesia was unwilling to participate.

''But the difference is, the Sri Lankan government has expressed a keen interest in this and we would be very interested in supporting them because it's much more safer to ensure that interception closer to Sri Lankan territory than Australia.''





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Last modified: December 06, 2012.

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