17 April 2012

Australian immigration concerns over Somali refugees

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A group of Somali refugees bound for Australia have raised concerns in the country that the already strained Australian immigration issue could be further burdened by the addition of another nationality seeking to claim asylum in Australia.

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Australian immigration authorities are concerned that more Somali refugees may attempt to reach Australia.

Australian immigration is already a much debated and controversial topic issue in the country yet the vast majority of asylum seekers arriving in Australia tend to be Middle Eastern or Asian, typically Iranian and Afghan.

However, a group of 32 Somali and two Ethiopian asylum seekers bound for Australia detained on the Indonesian island of Sumbawa have led some to believe the range of people smugglers has reached Africa and led to the worry that Australia could soon be expected to process even more asylum seekers.

The Indonesian arresting officers confirmed that the boat had set out from the island of Lombok, traditionally a on Wednesday. The boat's engine reportedly failed on Friday and the boat was dragged on to rocks; all passengers, 24 men, nine women and one girl made it ashore safely.

Politicians in Australia have been embroiled in an ongoing dispute regarding immigration in recent months with attacks becoming increasingly more scathing from both sides of the government. The row reached its peak during 2011 when overcrowding in immigration detention centres led to riots and an asylum seeker boat carrying 250 people sank, killing 203.

Some aspects of the issue have been addressed, overcrowding in detention centres has eased and more asylum seekers are being processed through the community. However, the row has not abated and the prospect of receiving asylum seekers from an additional country is bound to raise tensions once more.

According to immigration officials, less than 1% of asylum seekers claim to be Somali yet with Somalia being one of the world's most unstable countries and producing many of the world's refugees, even one boat arriving is enough to cause alarm in Australia.

However, Somali communities already within Australia have rubbished claims Australia can expect more refugees from their country.

"You had [Somalis] going to Malaysia on a legal visa then claiming to be refugees, but not Indonesia," said Omar Farah, a member of the Somali community in Victoria, adding that the distances involved would make the cost of paying a smuggler for a trip to Australia too expensive for most Somalis.

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people lodge their Australian visa application with the Australian High Commission

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