Burmese minority left to languish

July 2, 2010
source: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/politics/burmese-minority-left-to-languish/story-e6frgczf-1225886887081

THE Uniting Church raised the plight of a Muslim minority group from Burma with Immigration Minister Chris Evans last month.

The church made the plea because of lengthy delays in processing the group’s claims for asylum.

After visiting some of the Rohingyas detained at Christmas Island, the church and the Coalition for Asylum-Seekers, Refugees and Detainees discussed their concerns with Senator Evans

"We raised the issue of the length of time that people had been processed, given that one of (the Department of Immigration and Citizenship’s) detention values is to do things in the shortest amount of time," coalition chairwoman Rosemary Hudson Miller said.

She said the Rohingyas were concerned and upset by the long time they had been detained and had no idea how much longer their claims would take.

Ms Hudson Miller said it was known that the longer people were detained, the more they were prone to mental illness.

A spokeswoman for Senator Evans said all asylum seekers were subject to rigorous identity, health and security checks before a final assessment of their refugee status could be made.

Nearly 250,000 Rohingyas fled from western Burma into neighbouring Bangladesh in the 1990s to escape persecution.

"To be a minority group in Burma is to draw a short straw in the world," Pamela Curr, campaign co-ordinator for the Asylum-Seeker Resource Centre, said.

She said the minority had faced horrific persecution by the Burmese government, which had tortured them and used them as weapons carriers for the military.

The Burmese government has refused to recognise the minority, making them virtually stateless in their own country.

The UN High Commission for Refugees says many of the Rohingyas in exile in Malaysia are targeted by immigration authorities.

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship says there has recently been a rise in the number of Rohingyas claiming asylum in Australia.

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