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Australia temporarily suspends processing Sri Lanka, Afghanistan asylum claims

[JURIST] Australian Immigration Minister Chris Evans [official website] announced Friday that that his country will temporarily suspend [press release] processing all asylum claims from Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. Evans, a cabinet minister under Prime Minister Kevin Rudd [official website], said that Afghani and Sri Lankan asylum seekers would be denied entry because of improved security situations in those countries. Sri Lankan asylum claims processing would be will be suspended for three months, while Afghani claims will be suspended for six months, after which the policy will be reviewed in light of security assessments from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) [official website]. Evans said that the new procedures are intended to ensure that "Australia's refugee processing system continues to recognise those genuinely in need of our protection." The policy will not affect those refugees already on Christmas Island, a key processing center for unauthorized immigrants. Refugees from Sri Lanka and Afghanistan account for 80 percent [The Age report] of all asylum claims filed in Australia. Opposition parties have criticized the new policy as an election maneuver [The Australian report] meant to get more votes. Rights groups, including Amnesty International and the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) [advocacy websites] have expressed concerns [press release] about the policy's effect on legitimate asylum seekers.

Australia announced this week that they would accept three Cuban refugees [JURIST report] held at the Guantanamo Bay Migration Operations Center, which is not affiliated at the Naval Detention Center [JURIST news archive] at Guantanamo Bay. In November 2006, the High Court of Australia [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that a "holder of a temporary protection visa is not entitled to further protection in Australia if they are no longer in danger in the country from which they fled" and that the person may not remain a refugee. Australia's mandatory detention [AHRC backgrounder] policy, which requires any non-citizen without a visa seeking entry to be detained, had previously been challenged [JURIST report] by rights groups.

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