25 October 2011

Dozens of CHOGM delegates denied Australia visa

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A number of foreign delegates to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Perth this week have had their applications for an Australia visa rejected.

Australia Visa

32 CHOGM delegates have had their applications for an Australia visa rejected.

Australian immigration authorities have confirmed that 32 people from several countries have had their application for a short-stay Australia visa rejected, making them unable to attend CHOGM in Perth.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has remained tight-lipped on the identities of the rejected applicants, citing privacy as the reason behind withholding the names. He indicated that the applications were rejected on the basis of health, character and purpose of travel.

Western Australian Greens Senator Scott Ludlam has questioned the visa rejections, suggesting that some applicants have been denied entry into Australia to prevent them from publicly criticising other CHOGM delegates, particularly heads of state.

"If they're coming here because they want to raise concerns about human rights violations and war crimes in some of the countries whose heads of state are in Australia, then I don't think that's a good enough reason to deny the visas," he said.

"CHOGM is heavily politicised. There are people here who are accused of horrific human rights violations and, indeed, war crimes."

Senator Ludlam's comments follow calls for the arrest of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa - who is attending CHOGM - for war crimes. The Australian Government has indicated that Mr Rajapaksa and other CHOGM delegates already in the country will enjoy diplomatic immunity.

"Australia has obligations under international law including the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations which extends immunity to visiting heads of state," said Attorney General Robert McClelland.

More than 2600 registered CHOGM delegates have had their short-stay visas approved.

Australian Visa Bureau is an independent immigration consultancy that specialises in helping people lodge applications with the Australian High Commission.

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