The Department of Home Affairs has stood in defense of her border point policies after Four Corners reported some Saudi women who were trying to claim asylum were returned by Border Force Officials in the Sydney Airport.
Cases of Saudi Women who have been denied entry to Australia
The fact of a teenage girl by the name Al-Qunun who ran away from her family, with the hopes of getting to Australia using a tourist visa was being considered. She got detained at Bankok and afterward remained in her room so that she does not get deported. The UNHCR granted her refugee status, and after that, she was settled in Canada. The Australian government said it had intentions of resettling her, but didn’t have in mind to offer her any added benefits.
Al-Qunun is one out of the many Saudi women who face similar or worse scenarios created by the country’s guardianship policy, in which a woman must live under the watch of a male guardian and relative, and seeks to escape.
According to Dr. Taleb Abdulmohsen, a German-based activist, he met a woman who tried to get into Australia two years ago. It was suspected that she might want to get an asylum claim, and when she was denied entry into the country, she did as they thought she would. Again, they refused to let her claim Asylum.
Four Corners have also reported claims where the Australian Border Force officers questioned young women from Saudi Arabia who was not traveling with a male guardian.
Abdulmohsen said that the young woman was asked to provide the phone number of her guardian. She was asked to hand over her cell phone, and they went through her emails, WhatsApp messages, and SMS in a bid to find something that confirms her intention of claiming asylum. He added that her luggage was carefully checked for the same reason.
According to George Newhouse, a Human Rights Lawyer, the questioning procedure must have been discriminatory concerning the Sex Discrimination Act. He added that Australian’s would be surprised and at the same time offended to know that their Government Officials still make sure that a woman traveling to Australia alone has a male guardian somewhere who is aware of the trip and has approved of it.
Home Office response to the Allegation
Responding to the allegations against its Border Force Officials, the Department of Home Affairs said that the job description of the officials includes picking out fake traveling documents and identities, and assisting Immigrants to go on the right visa. The department commended the officials for being able to do their work over the years, preventing hundreds of people from entering the country with fraudulent visa documents. Home Affairs Department went on to state that foreigners who make claims for protection while they are offshore are usually directed to the UNHCR and other Non-governmental organizations, and are further moved to the specific support facilities provided by the government to resettle women who are prone to harassment, victimization and every other form of abuse which is tied to their gender.
Australia further condemned
Adam Google, a Human Rights researcher, said that if the officials are found to be guilty of the allegations, they automatically represent a degradation in the callous Immigration policy of Australia, which has already been criticized by UN for having a reservoir of refugees and asylum seekers offshore. He made it clear that these women from Saudi Arabia are helpless in their home country, and the least Australia can do for them is to let them in.
A senior lecturer at Macquarie Law School, Daniel Ghezelbash said that based on the Immigration law of Australia, foreigners who do not complete their Immigration clearance process before being stopped would not be allowed to obtain a Permanent Protection Visa. They would, however, be allowed to apply for a safe-haven entry visa or a temporary protection visa. Ghezelbash remarked that in International law, grey areas do not exist. He said that it is improper to return people to their home countries if they are going to be endangered there.
According to Ghezelbash, there are guidelines which oversee the policy for a screening interview. In these guidelines, it is stated that people facing Immigration clearance should be allowed to bring up their asylum claims. It also contains the assessment procedure.
It is also stated in the guideline that people whose protection claims are prima facie, not seem far-fetched or made up should be considered for the country’s non-refoulement obligation. Their situations should be reevaluated as removal from the country is not the best option for them. They would be screened and given protection visas, thus permitting them to enter Australia.
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