Australia rejects Vietnamese refugee claims in 40 minutes

2015-05-26 10:15
(Ye Aung Thu, AFP)

(Ye Aung Thu, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Canberra - Australia secretly held a group of 46 Vietnamese asylum seekers on a warship at sea for almost a month and rejected their refugee claims during interviews that took as little as 40 minutes before returning them all to Vietnam last month, officials said.

The Vietnamese men, women and children were intercepted by an Australian border security vessel on 20 March and the asylum seekers were returned to the Vietnamese port of Vung Tau on 18 April, Immigration Department secretary Michael Pezzullo told a Senate committee late on Monday.

Maj. Gen. Andrew Bottrell, the army officer who oversees Australia's border security operations, said their refugee claims were rejected after individual interviews at sea that lasted between 40 minutes and 2 hours.

Pezzullo said the interviews were long enough to ensure that none of the asylum seekers' claims met Australia's protection obligations under the United Nations Refugee Convention.

Australia under fire

The Vietnamese were returned to their homeland after Vietnamese officials gave assurances they would not be punished, Pezzullo said.

"There was a level of assurance provided that there would not be any retribution for their illegal departure from Vietnam," he said.

Bottrell said the written assurances from Vietnam that provided a "level of comfort" about sending the asylum seekers back, although Australia had not kept track of them since their return.

UN refugee agency last month raised concerns at reports that the Vietnamese refugee applications had been screened at sea, questioning whether they had been properly judged. An UNHCR official was not immediately available for comment on Tuesday.

The Australian navy routinely turns back boats carrying asylum seekers from Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. However, these boats are usually returned to Indonesia, where most of the sea voyages begin.

Australia has come under criticism from human rights groups for its policy of refusing to allow refugees who attempt to reach its shores by boat to ever resettle in Australia.

Read more on:    australia  |  vietnam  |  migrants

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.