None have been rejected so far. Australia could get millions at this rate. Yet NONE are in fact refugees. They ceased being refugees as soon as they arrived in Pakistan, where millions of them now live

All surviving asylum-seekers from the boat that exploded near Ashmore Reef in April will be granted permanent residency in Australia, ahead of a coronial inquest into the cause of the blaze that killed five of their fellow passengers. The 42 Afghan men from the boat that was set alight on April 16 will be released into the community this week.

Police believe the fire was deliberately lit by one or more of the asylum-seekers, but do not have enough evidence to lay any charges. An inquest in January is expected to find out more about what happened. The Australian understands that if any of the asylum-seekers are convicted of serious charges as a result of the inquest, Immigration Minister Chris Evans is prepared to cancel their visas and deport them.

While Northern Territory Assistant Commissioner Mark McAdie said earlier this month that there was insufficient evidence to charge anyone, police had ruled out the two Indonesian crew members as suspects. “It’s unknown whether the person or persons responsible for the fire intended to cause the explosion that resulted in the loss of five lives,” Mr McAdie said. He refused to say whether those responsible for the fire were still alive, but said there was insufficient evidence to charge any of the survivors. “Clearly someone knows what occurred … but they’re not telling us,” he said at the time.

The Australian understands that Senator Evans ordered a ministerial briefing on the men’s cases, which he received on Friday. The minister asked for the briefing after serious concerns were raised about their mental health; they are adamant they were not involved in lighting the fatal blaze and many have become distressed and anxious.

When the men are granted their permanent protection visas this week, the total number of asylum-seekers to be granted protection visas since a run of boats that began last September will reach 687.

The men from the boat that exploded are being detained in Perth and Brisbane, not on Christmas Island, because of their special medical needs. Doctors from hospitals in Perth and Brisbane have provided the men with regular follow-up treatment for their burns. They have also had regular visits from members of the Afghan community, imams from local mosques and refugee advocates.

Immigration officials have allowed the men to go on excursions to local cinemas, parks, shops and cultural events organised by Afghan communities in Perth and Brisbane. In Perth, the men have been allowed to play volleyball every Sunday. They play against members of the Afghan community and are supervised by guards from security firm G4S, which is contracted by the immigration department to run detention facilities in Perth.

Specialist counsellors from the Association for Services to Torture and Trauma Survivors have also regularly seen the men to help them cope with depression and other issues stemming from the horrific explosion and their lives in Afghanistan. They have all had their refugee claims examined and have undergone health, security and identity checks.

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship found that, as Afghans, their cases triggered Australia’s obligations under the UN Refugees Convention. It is understood Senator Evans also believes that granting the visas now, instead of after the inquest, will help the group recover from a traumatic ordeal, settle in the community and recover their physical and mental health.

Northern Territory police were consulted and raised no concerns, it is understood. The men will be provided with settlement services including short-term torture and trauma counselling where necessary, English language tuition and help with funding somewhere to live. The department will provide assistance to the NT Police should any of the group be summonsed to appear at the inquiry.

On Saturday, Sri Lankan asylum-seeker Sarath Tennakoon was deported to Colombo, leaving just one man from the group of 12 who reached the Australian mainland last November but were found not to be refugees. The last asylum-seeker from that boat, Roshan Fernando, has his hopes pinned on a court appeal.

SOURCE

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