Australia re­turn­ing asy­lum-seek­ers to Viet­nam: re­port

The China Post - - SPORTS -

Australia is re­turn­ing al­most 50 Viet­namese asy­lum-seek­ers us­ing a war­ship cur­rently off the Asian na­tion’s coast af­ter in­ter­cept­ing them at sea, a re­port said Fri­day, as Can­berra en­forces a tough im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy.

The asy­lum-seek­ers were found by cus­toms and navy ves­sels north of Australia ear­lier this month be­fore be­ing trans­ferred to am­phibi­ous land­ing ship HMAS Choules, The West Aus­tralian news­pa­per said.

The daily es­ti­mated that the cost of re­turn­ing the asy­lum-seek­ers could reach AU$1.4 mil­lion (US$1.1 mil­lion), adding that it was not known if they had al­ready been trans­ferred to lo­cal au­thor­i­ties.

A spokes­woman for the Im­mi­gra­tion Min­is­ter Peter Dut­ton said she was aware of the re­port but told AFP “we don’t com­ment on op­er­a­tional mat­ters.” A spokesman for the De­fense Min­is­ter Kevin An­drews re­ferred all ques­tions to the im­mi­gra­tion depart­ment.

The Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment has re­fused to dis­close de­tails of its mil­i­taryled op­er­a­tion to turn back ves­sels car­ry­ing asy­lum-seek­ers try­ing to en­ter the coun­try.

But it said in Jan­uary that “15 re­turns of var­i­ous forms,” in­clud­ing boats turned back to In­done­sia and Sri Lanka, in­stances where asy­lum-seek­ers were taken back by for­eign coun­tries, and res­cues at sea, had taken place since the start of the pol­icy in Septem­ber 2013.

Turn-back op­er­a­tions last year an­gered In­done­sia, with ten­sions be­tween the two coun­tries grow­ing af­ter the Aus­tralian navy ad­mit­ted en­ter­ing the na­tion’s ter­ri­to­rial wa­ters.

Since July 2013, Australia has sent asy­lum-seek­ers ar­riv­ing on boats to de- ten­tion cen­ters on Pa­pua New Guinea’s Manus Is­land and Nauru.

They are de­nied re­set­tle­ment in Australia even if they are found to be gen­uine refugees.

The news­pa­per re­port came sev­eral months af­ter the High Court ruled that Can­berra’s detention of 157 Tamil asy­lum-seek­ers from Sri Lanka at sea for weeks in June last year was legal.

Their case cen­tered around whether Australia had the power to re­move asy­lum-seek­ers from its con­tigu­ous zone, just out­side ter­ri­to­rial wa­ters, and send them to other coun­tries. The asy­lum­seek­ers were even­tu­ally taken to Nauru.

Can­berra has said the pol­icy is nec­es­sary to stop asy­lum-seek­ers en­ter­ing Australia by boat. They had pre­vi­ously been ar­riv­ing al­most daily in of­ten un­safe wooden fish­ing ves­sels, with hun­dreds drown­ing en route.

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