: Australia’s secretive return of Vietnamese asylum seekers

Australia’s secretive return of Vietnamese asylum seekers

Daniel Webb

The Australian government has secretly returned 46 asylum seekers to Vietnam without any transparency or due process.

Media reports suggest that the group of Vietnamese asylum seekers were intercepted in early April 2015 by Australian customs and navy vessels north of Australia and were then held on the Australian Navy ship HMAS Choules somewhere off the coast of Vietnam.

Australia has clear obligations under the Refugee Convention and other human rights treaties to not return people to harm.

Over the last five years, successive Australian governments have assessed around 90 per cent of boat arrivals as being refugees genuinely fleeing persecution. Yet since commencing its ‘Operation Sovereign Borders’ policy in September 2013, the government has intercepted16 boats carrying a total of 475 asylum seekers. Apart from one individual, all of those 475 have been returned.

The numbers make clear that the screening process being used at sea is fundamentally flawed and that refugees are being wrongfully returned to harm.


DANIEL WEBB is Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre.

(2015) 40(2) AltLJ 138
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