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Australian High Court decision to affect 1,000 rejected asylum claims

11-12-2010 09:53 BJT

CANBERRA, Nov. 12 (Xinhua) -- About 1,000 rejected asylum claims could be affected by a High Court's judgment in favor of two Sri Lankans, who were denied legal fairness in seeking a review of their claims for refugee status, the government estimated Friday.

In a landmark decision, the High Court ruled that two Sri Lankans who arrived by boat were denied "procedural fairness" because their asylum claims were reviewed through a process unchecked by Australian law.

The offshore detention regime was set up to deny those arriving by boat the right to apply for protection unless the immigration minister made an exception.

In effect, it created a two-tier system. Those who arrived at mainland airports had the right to appeal in court against their rejections but those who sailed were funneled through a separate process that mimicked the courts but was not bound by law.

The court's ruling will allow asylum seekers who arrive on Christmas Island to challenge any rejection of refugee claims in Australian courts.

The government estimated on Friday that about 1,000 rejected asylum claims could be affected by the Australian High Court's ruling.

According to Immigration Minister Chris Bowen, a "significant" number of claims already in the system are likely to be affected.

"The potential for appeal is open to anybody who has their refugee claim rejected," he told ABC Television, adding "at the moment we have about 150 people who have had that claim rejected at both levels of the process (and) about 1,000 people in the system who've had their initial claim rejected."

Bowen said the government would consider all options in the wake of the ruling, so that the chances of appeal for matters of procedural fairness are minimized.

Human Rights lawyer Julian Burnside QC said theoretically, the ruling could also affect asylum seekers who have been deported back to their homeland.

"In theory yes, but in practice no," he explained on ABC Radio. "It will be practically impossible for them to do anything about appealing once they've been sent back (to Afghanistan) and live in fear of the Taliban,"he said.

Meanwhile, the Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young want Christmas Island put back in Australia's migration zone and promised to introduce a bill to repeal the excision policy and give boat arrivals access to judicial review.

Australia has long been a destination for people from poor, often war-ravaged countries hoping to start a new life. Most of the asylum seekers in recent years have come from Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq.

More than 110 boats full of asylum seekers have entered Australian waters this year. They were detained at either Christmas Island or mainland detention centres while their refugee claims are assessed.

Editor:Jin Lin |Source: Xinhua

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