A possie in Aussie

October 12, 2009

Hysterical claims about Sri Lankan asylum seeker

The Rudd Government has publically lost its temper with Sharman Stone (opposition spokes woman for migration), saying that “Dr Stone has maligned Department of Immigration and Citizenship staff and the Australian Federal Police”.

Sharman Stone has claimed that asylum seeker processing had been ‘compromised’ because of the arrest of a Sri Lankan man returned to Colombo this week.

The media release from Minister Chris Evans quite correctly points out that the fact that the person was arrested and charged with a criminal offence in Sri Lanka on his return does not engage Australia’s international protection obligations.

Evans then adds “Dr Stone has a history of making hysterical and baseless allegations. Last week she made the outrageous claim that the United Nations refugee agency is corrupt”.

I agree with the Minister that Stone is defaming the Immigration Department with baseless claims. Departmental officials have had to abide by legislated guidelines to assess refugee claims for many years, including under both the Howard and the Rudd governments.

I witnessed very dubious ‘interpretations’ of that legislation in the days of Minister Ruddock, which resulted from a culture of antagonism to asylum seekers, inspired by Howard government rhetoric.

The culture of the department has changed radically since the new government took power. Refugee legislation has a much better chance of being interpreted and enacted correctly now than it ever did in the Howard era. (For the asylum seeker side of the story see Sri Lankan asylum seeker says he will be killed)

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