ASIO backs down on refugee assessment

Issue 

The Tamil Refugee Council released this statement on May 22

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The decision to release Tamil widow, Manokala, and her six-year-old son, Ragavan, from indefinite detention was a welcome move, and opens up many questions about ASIO’s adverse security assessments, the Tamil Refugee Council said.

A spokesperson for the Tamil Refugee Council, Trevor Grant, said the release cast grave doubts about the legitimacy of the secret assessments that have left 55 refugees detained indefinitely, most for between three and four years.

“Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus has a lot of explaining to do,” Grant said. “He was proudly quoting Dr Martin Luther King on justice this week but there is still no justice here for the other 50 or more refugees being held in indefinite detention.

“This small, frail widow whose only ambition in life has been to provide a safe and secure environment for her little boy was taken from the streets of Dandenong in 2011 and locked away for 18 months without knowing why. All they would say is that she is a threat to national security.

“Now, suddenly, they say she isn’t a threat. In the meantime a woman and her little boy have spent 18 months of their lives suffering the horror of being locked behind razor wire without knowing if they would ever be released.

“ Dreyfus says that there can be ‘changing circumstances’. What does he mean by that? It would seem that the only thing that has changed is that ASIO is finally admitting that it has got things awfully wrong.

“Clearly if ASIO can get it so wrong in one case, it follows that there must be severe doubts about the other refugees held on these secret adverse assessments.

“This goes to the competence of ASIO in making these judgements and the quality of the evidence they are using to lock these people away in a legal black-hole.

“It is well known that much of the evidence comes from Sri Lankan government intelligence.

“This is a government whose president many times has said that asylum seekers are ‘traitors’. So it is fairly obvious that the evidence on asylum seekers who flee the country, such as Manokala, is tainted.”

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