- July 19, 2010 12:52AM
THE UN High Commissioner for Refugees has asked the Australian Government to explain why the number of Afghan asylum seekers it has accepted as refugees has plunged since 2009.
In an interview with Fairfax newspapers, UN assistant high commissioner for protection Erika Feller confirmed the UN had asked the Labor Government why fewer asylum seekers from Afghanistan were being accepted compared with last year.
Ms Feller’s comments follow a recent prediction from Prime Minister Julia Gillard that “many more” Afghan asylum seekers would be returned to Afghanistan if a recent rejection rate of 70 per cent held up once appeals against their deportation were heard.
“We believe that the (UN High Commissioner for Refugees) guidelines are accurate and that they should be the basis for decision-making,” Ms Feller said.
“If we are told now that the guidelines are not the basis for decision-making in Australia or any other country, we want to understand why. It surprises us.”
The asylum seeker issue had become a “political football” for both major parties in Australia, Ms Feller said.
“We’re talking about people with serious humanitarian problems and these problems shouldn’t be bandied around as part of the politicking in the election run-up,” she said.
Ms Feller described the Gillard Government’s proposed East Timor regional refugee processing centre as “problematic” and “not a substitute for a fully functioning, fair national assessment process”.