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Monday, 18 August 2003
Page: 18810


Mr Windsor asked the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, upon notice, on 25 June 2003:

(1) For each of the past five years, how many (a) Iranians and (b) Iranians under the age of 18 who were held in detention have returned to Iran.

(2) What evidence, if any, does he have to show that those who have returned to Iran have not been persecuted, imprisoned or killed.

(3) Has the agreement between Australia and Iran that includes provisions to return detainees to Iran that he mentioned at a press conference on 12 March been finalised.

(4) Will the full details of this agreement be released to Parliament and the Australian public; if so, when, if not, why not.

(5) For each of the past five years, is he able to say how many Iranians who were held in detention converted to Christianity.

(6) Has the Government sought assurances that Iranians who convert to Christianity and who are subsequently returned to Iran will not be persecuted for their religious beliefs or practices; if not, why not.


Mr Ruddock (Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Reconciliation) —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) Data concerning the number of Iranian detainees who have returned to Iran is only readily available for the past four years. To collate the information for 1998-99 would require a substantial and unreasonable diversion of resources of the department from its other operations.

Year

Iranians (all ages) held in detention who returned to Iran

Iranians under the age 18 held in detention who returned to Iran

2002-03

30

2

2001-02

87

4

2000-01

77

4

1999-00

2

0

TOTAL

196

10

(2) The Australian Government takes seriously its obligation not to refoule refugees, but also respects the principles of state sovereignty and does not monitor non-Australian citizens in foreign countries.

(3) I signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Consular Matters with a representative of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran on 12 March 2003. The MOU includes measures to combat illegal migration. Under these measures Australia and Iran have agreed that their first priority is to work together to promote the voluntary repatriation of those Iranians currently in administrative detention in Australia. Arrangements for the return of those who do not volunteer, however, have also been determined.

(4) I signed the MOU on the understanding that it is a confidential agreement between Australia and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

(5) Your request for details concerning the number of Iranians, who were held in detention and converted to Christianity in the past five years, is not available. My Department does not record this information.

(6) Where persecution for religious belief forms part of an applicant's claim for asylum, information on the likelihood of persecution in relation to those beliefs is sought as part of the refugee decision-making process. Through this process, the Department draws on a broad range of country inform-ation, including information from other countries, world wide media reporting, academic works, and advice from international agencies and from a broad range of groups including human rights groups.

Applicants found not to engage Australia's protection obligations have access to merits review by independent tribunals, either the Refugee Review Tribunal (RRT) or, in relation to character issues, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT). In exceptional circumstances applicants who are unsuccessful at the Tribunal level may have grounds for review in the Federal Court, the Federal Magistrates Court, or the High Court.

Failed asylum seekers are not removed where this would place Australia in breach of its inter-national obligations relating to the removal of non-citizens, nor are they returned to their country of origin if they are in genuine need of protection.