The United Nations is reviewing its refugee guidelines for Sri Lanka and Afghanistan in a move that could see the Australian Government deny protection claims for the majority of asylum seekers heading to Australia.
As authorities confirmed a second boat of asylum seekers had been rescued off Australia's northwest coast in less than 24 hours, it emerged the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) was “actively reviewing” its assessment of the two war-torn countries.
With the UNHCR set to downgrade its refugee guidelines for Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, the majority of asylum seekers heading to Australia are likely to be denied protection.
A spokesman for Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor told AAP the “vast majority” of asylum seekers arriving in Australia in recent months had come from Afghanistan, while there were about 700 Sri Lankan men in detention on Christmas Island.
UNHCR regional representative Richard Towle said the protection guidelines for both Afghanistan and Sri Lanka were under review.
"I don't want to pre-empt what the guidelines will say but clearly there has been a significant number of people who've left the camp population in Sri Lanka and are in the process of returning to their places of origin," he told ABC Radio today, referring to the state-run internment camps where about 300,000 war-displaced civilians were locked up until December last year.
The Federal Government is expected to send three Tamils back to Sri Lanka next week after denying their claims for asylum. Another 13 Sri Lankans, including three Tamils, were returned earlier this year.
Asylum seekers coming from Afghanistan are facing a similar fate. "There are other countries where we've conducted similar exercises (to Sri Lanka), including Afghanistan, and I can tell those conditions are also under review," Mr Towle said. (The Herald Sun)