Xinhua | China Daily | February 02, 2011

CANBERRA, February 2 (Xinhua) — The governments of Australia and Afghanistan were in disagreement over their recently signed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to return failed asylum seekers to Afghanistan, The Australian newspaper reported on Wednesday.

Photo: AAP

Two weeks ago, the Australian government reached an agreement with Afghanistan authorities, under which failed asylum seekers will be sent directly back to the war-torn country.

According to Australian Immigration Minister Chris Bowen, Afghanistan was obliged to take failed asylum-seekers, including those removed by force, under the MOU

Bowen hailed the agreement, saying that it will be a major tool in the fight against people-smuggling.

However, Kabul’s envoy to Australia, Amanullah Jayhoon, on Tuesday night insisted it only applied to voluntary returns.

“The MOU does not say anything, it is very clear about voluntary re-admitting,” Jayhoon told The Australian newspaper on Wednesday.

“The word ‘force’ has not been used in any part of it.”

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Regional Representative Richard Towle, who was also a signatory on the deal, backed the Australian government’s stance insisting the terms oblige Afghanistan to accept forced returns.

No section of the MOU explicitly allows for involuntary removals. The section notes that, while voluntary returns were ” preferable”, Afghanistan would “re-admit its nationals who are in Australia”.

The Australian newspaper reported ambiguously worded section of the document has created confusion, as both sides interpreted the agreement in their own ways.

Meanwhile, Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said the dispute suggested that Minister Bowen was premature in claiming the success of this arrangement.

Tuesday’s confusion followed similar claims by Afghan Minister of Refugees Jamaher Anwary, who on Monday insisted forced returns were not covered in the agreement.

Afghan Minister of Refugees Jamaher Anwary

Anwary was one of three signatories to the MOU, with Bowen and Towle being the others.

As there are millions of Afghans living as refugees in neighboring Iran and Pakistan, the issue of forced returns is sensitive for Kabul of Afghanistan.

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5 Comments

  1. Aqdas Mohebbee on

    not only is the Immigration minister a disgrace to all australians but so is this Jamaher guy!
    who do they think they are to sign such an agreement and determine the life of distraught and hopeless people, they should both be ashamed of themselves.
    it just happens that such agreements exist for “AFGHAN refugees, hm i guess they pose the treat that their muslim aswell. grow a heart both of you and open your eyes and see whose the real people suffering ..

  2. Australia will not forcing the Hazara refugees to go back to a country the that they run away cox their life n their family, they put their self in death to come to Australia to have a new life in Australia with families.

  3. Australia will not forcing the Hazara refugees to go to a country the that they run away cox their life n their family, they put their self in death to come to Australia to have a new life in Australia with families.

  4. if australia is forcing back the few hundred refugees what should iran and pakistan do? who are hosting millions?????????????

  5. How is it that there is a huge misunderstanding on the part of Afghan Refugee Minister? He was one of the signatories to the MOU. Hope they had interpreters there at the signing. Aus and UNHCR concurred that Afg to accept forced returns why does Jamaher conveniently claiming amnesia? Or it is a deliberate attempt to get rid of a group of people? Or is Jamaher perhaps even contemplating on seeking protection from Aus?

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