Oct 22, Colombo: Australian Human Right Commission (AHRC) says the Australian government's 'enhanced screening process' applied to illegal immigrants arriving from Sri Lanka at the country's shores is of particular concern.
In a Snapshot Report released Tuesday on Asylum seekers, refugees and human rights, the AHRC says the screening process that applies to all unauthorized maritime arrivals from Sri Lanka does not constitute a fair asylum procedure and risks excluding those with legitimate claims for protection.
The Australian government implemented the 'enhanced screening process' after there was a significant increase in boat arrivals from Sri Lanka between August and October 2012.
According to the report between 27 October 2012 and 12 August 2013, the Department of Immigration has conducted 3,195 screening interviews and returned 1,070 people from Australia to Sri Lanka as a result of the process.
"The Commission is concerned that the enhanced screening process may not contain sufficient safeguards to protect people from being removed to a country where they face a real risk of significant harm," the snapshot report said.
The AHRC says it is particularly problematic that unaccompanied minors who arrive unauthorized by boat from Sri Lanka are subject to the enhanced screening process and may not receive adequate support through the process. As of 5 September 2013 two unaccompanied minors had been screened out and returned to Sri Lanka.
Under the new rules announced on July 19 this year under the Kevin Rudd government, anyone who arrives in Australia by boat without a visa no longer has the chance to settle in Australia.
The illegal maritime arrivals will directly be sent to the offshore detention centers in Nauru Island and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.
The "snapshot" report says there were 6,579 people in closed immigration detention facilities in Australia, including 1428 children, at September 5.
According to the AHRC, Australia maintains one of the most restrictive immigration detention systems in the world and the report reveals a significant gap between Australia's human rights obligations under international law and the current treatment of asylum seekers and refugees.