Sri Lankan terrorists should be returned to Sri Lanka for appropriate action by the Sri Lankan authorities

FOUR of the Tamil asylum-seekers rescued by the Oceanic Viking and offered a special deal by the Rudd Government will be refused visas after ASIO determined them a threat to national security. The government lobbied furiously to resettle the 78 Sri Lankans swiftly following their stand-off aboard the Australian Customs boat, but The Australian revealed today that four of the Tamils being held at Christmas Island have been issued with adverse security assessments by Australia’s chief domestic security agency, ASIO.

In a further complication for authorities struggling to manage a fresh wave of boat-borne asylum-seekers, it is believed one of the four is a woman who travelled to Australia in the company of her two young children. The situation presents a conundrum for the Government, which cannot return the four to Sri Lanka without exposing them to potential harm from the Sri Lankan Government, which in May crushed the decades-old Tamil insurgency with a comprehensive military offensive.

Australia would also be in breach of its legal obligations if it returned the four, as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has designated all 78 of the Sri Lankans as legal refugees. However, people subject to adverse security assessments are by law ineligible for an Australian visa, which means the four have no hope of coming to the Australian mainland. Other countries will also be highly reluctant to take them now that Australia has deemed them a security risk.

The four were part of a group of 16 Tamils who flew from Indonesia to Australia in the final days of last year, amid concerns about their background. They had been held in Tanjung Pinang for about a month after agreeing to leave the Oceanic Viking. On December 29, six of the Sri Lankans, including the four who have been issued adverse security assessments, flew via charter aircraft from Indonesia directly to Christmas Island. The next day, 10 of their fellow passengers flew on a commercial flight into Australia, where they joined other Oceanic Viking passengers, who had flown in before Christmas.

Of the 78 rescued, 44 are in a UN transit facility in Romania awaiting resettlement in the US and Canada, 18 have come to Australia and 16 remain in Tanjung Pinang.

The revelations pose new questions about the Rudd government’s handling of the stand-off and whether the decision to offer a special deal to leave the boat was driven by security fears.

Yesterday, ASIO refused to comment on the matter. However, an Immigration Department spokesman, Sandi Logan, confirmed adverse security assessments had been issued. “The passengers from the Oceanic Viking who received adverse security assessments will not be granted permanent visas to resettle in Australia,” Mr Logan said. “They are being held in secure and appropriate detention arrangements while Australia continues to explore resettlement options or they choose to depart voluntarily.” Mr Logan confirmed Australia would not seek to deport the four to Sri Lanka, acknowledging it would be a breach of the UN Refugee Convention. [Rubbish! There is no convention protecting terrorists]