A new documentary, A Well-Founded Fear, to be broadcast on SBS on November 19, documents the deaths of nine Afghan refugees who were returned to Afghanistan after having their asylum applications rejected.
The director of the Edmund Rice Centre, Phil Glendenning, who spent six years tracing the refugees believes that at least 20 have died. The documentary is based on his efforts.
Around 400 Afghan refugees who were detained on Nauru, as part of the so-called "Pacific Solution", were sent back to Afghanistan after having their requests for asylum rejected. Glendenning reported that many of the refugees told him the immigration department had said it would be safe for them to return home and that if they didn't, they would remain in a detention centre for the rest of their lives.
In response to the documented deaths an immigration department spokesperson stated, "The department is not responsible for all aspects of the future wellbeing of a person in their homeland", according to the October 27 Australian.
Immigration minister Chris Evans has asked for a full briefing from the department, however he refused to re-open any of the cases. To do that "you would want to be convinced there was something very wrong that occurred", he told the October 27 Sydney Morning Herald. He claimed his department didn't "agree with a lot of the claims made" in the documentary.
The Australian Greens have called for a royal commission. Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said "the decisions made about immigration by the Howard Government have cost people's lives", and that "now the Rudd Government has the chance to demonstrate the understanding, compassion and sense of justice that the Howard Government lacked so callously", the Australian reported.
According to the documentary, many of the returned asylum seekers now have to hide in Pakistan or are forced to move between Pakistan and Afghanistan to escape political persecution and possibly death.