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Transcript of interview with Alison Carabine: ABC Radio National: 18 June 2014: Iraqi asylum seekers, Operation Sovereign Borders, High Court

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Minister for Immigration and Border Protection

Scott Morrison

Iraqi asylum seekers, Operation Sovereign Borders, High Court

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Interview with Alison Carabine, ABC Radio National Programme

Alison Carabine: Thanks very much for joining breakfast.

Minister Morrison: Good morning Alison.

Carabine: As we heard from Sarah Hanson-Young before 8 o'clock she is calling on the government to stop repatriating Iraqi asylum seekers considering the deteriorating security situation in that country. Is that something you are prepared to do?

Minister Morrison: The situation in Iraq is obviously very concerning and the government is following developments there very, very closely. I should stress that the overwhelming majority, almost universally, the issue of people returning to Iraq is done voluntarily. They do it on their own free will and this is done in partnership particularly from offshore centres in partnership organisations such as the International Organization for Migration, a respected international organisation, and so those decisions are personal and private decisions made by those individuals and if they wish to make those decisions well that is a matter for them. But more broadly we will continue to consider every single case on the merits and on the information that is available to us.

Carabine: But with regards to the voluntary repatriations, anyone deciding that they did want to go home to Iraq they would need the assistance of the federal government which facilitates these trips back home. Would you stop facilitating repatriations considering what is going on in Iraq at the moment?

Minister Morrison: Well you are suggesting we should prevent them from doing something they have asked to do. They are themselves the ones that have said they wish to return to their home country and I would think it would be a strange situation for us to detain them when they actually wanted to go home. We are simply facilitating their request to return to their home country.

Carabine: So if an Iraqi, a failed Iraqi asylum seeker wanted to go back to Iraq even northern Iraq which is the scene of all the sectarian bloodshed they would be assisted to do so by the government?

Minister Morrison: Well they would have asked to go home and they can change their view on that up until and including the day. So that is a matter for their decision and if they take that decision then we will respect their decision.

Carabine: But couldn't that raise the prospect of the federal government facilitating the passage of a person who may want to return to Iraq to join in the ISIS uprising?

Minister Morrison: Well that is a very different situation that you are referring to and there are other arrangements that we have in place to prevent those types of movements.

Carabine: And what would happen to a person who you suspected may want to return to Iraq to participate in the sectarian violence?

Minister Morrison: Well I am not about to telecast how those sort of sensitive matters would be handled by the Australian government but we face similar situations in relation to those who may be seeking to participate in the Syrian conflict and we have taken actions in a number of cases there and we monitor these developments very, very closely and the movement of persons who we might suspect of these things.

Carabine: It is not really your particular bailiwick but does the government know of any Australians who have been involved in the violence in Syria crossing the border and working with ISIS in Iraq?

Minister Morrison: Well Alison it would be very inappropriate for me to comment on those matters publicly.

Carabine: Ok. Well considering the bloodshed in Iraq would you consider as the Greens are wanting that the thousands of Iraqi asylum seekers who are either in detention, most of them on bridging visas, be allowed to settle in Australia as a special case?

Minister Morrison: They apply through the same process and their cases will be determined in accordance with that process and if they are successful under our policies they would receive a temporary protection visa. That temporary protection visa presently is being withheld in the Senate and that is the only reason why their claims for many if not thousands of them have not yet been fully assessed so if Senator Hanson-Young and the Labor party want to see these claims assessed it is quite simple - stop blocking temporary protection visas which was the mandate this government received at the last election. That is what the delay is and it is an unnecessary delay and it is a cruel delay being only pursued for political purposes by the Greens and the Labor Party.

Carabine: Now what we have seen in the past week alone is about half a million Iraqis displaced. They are now refugees in their own country. Do you think that that could amount to a pretty significant push factor when it comes to people wanting to jump on boats and come to Australia? Could we start seeing the boats arriving again as a result of what is going on in Iraq at the moment?

Minister Morrison: Well any boats that sought to come to Australia and illegally enter Australia will face the same set of policies that have been in place now for the last nine months. Operation Sovereign Borders started nine months ago. For the past around six months our policies of turn backs have been in place and they have been highly effective and those policies will continue but the reason I am confident we will be able to do more in this situation is because we have freed up more than 4 000 places in the Special Humanitarian Programme every year - this year and the four years of the budget and forward estimates. That is 20 000 places. That means

that thousands of people whether they are in Syria or Iraq or other places of trouble we are better placed to assist those and particularly those who have contacts and relations with family here in Australia. We have already been doing that. We will see an additional 4 000 special humanitarian visas handed out this financial year and that is a result of our successful border protection policies.

Carabine: And Minister before I let you go the High Court will hand down its ruling on the legal challenge to Manus Island. That ruling will come down mid-morning. Are you confident that your predecessor Chris Bowen dotted the i's, crossed the t's when he changed the Migration Act back in 2010 to delegate Papua New Guinea as a country for offshore processing?

Minister Morrison: It is pointless to speculate on these things Alison, I will wait to see what that court has said.

Carabine: And if the challenge is upheld will you be forced to close the detention centre on Manus Island?

Minister Morrison: I won't speculate on things about what the court is going to say or not say but I can assure you the government has contingencies in place.

Carabine: Minister thanks so much for your time.

Minister Morrison: Thanks Alison.