By Kirsty Needham, The Age. From http://www.theage.com.au/national/refugee-reviewer-biased-20111209-1onua.html:
The Federal Magistrates Court has ruled that a reviewer who rejected the refugee claims of a large number of Afghan boat arrivals appeared to be biased, taking an “inflexible and mechanical” approach to the plight of Hazara ethnic minorities fleeing persecution. Refugee approval rates for Afghan asylum seekers fell in the first three months of 2011, despite the worsening security situation in Afghanistan, as the federal government came under pressure to stem boat arrivals.
Refugee lawyers accused reviewer Steve Karas of taking a “sausage machine” approach to the Afghan cases he assessed.
The Federal Magistrates Court has ruled there was a possibility that Mr Karas appeared to be biased against Hazara claims, and this “infected” his decisions on individual cases. In the case of a 37-year-old Afghan man, magistrate Rolf Driver viewed previous decisions made by Mr Karas about Hazaras between January and March, and found 32 of 90 paragraphs in the rulings were identical.
Steven Forrest, principal solicitor with Brisbane’s Refugee and Immigration Legal Service, said: “I would strongly endorse the comment made by his honour that it is important that decision makers should not take a glib or superficial approach to the claims of persecution by Afghan Hazaras.”
An Immigration Department spokesman said the court ruling “does not indicate [claims by] Afghan Hazaras have received poor and unjust treatment”. The government has announced that new arrivals will have access to the Refugee Review Tribunal in 2012.
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