Afghans go home in droves

Amanda Hodge; 28/4/10; (4 Items)

Afghan refugees are returning in unexpectedly high numbers to their war-ravaged homeland, with more than 22,000 fleeing Pakistan’s rising insurgency and employment squeeze for an uncertain future across the border in the past month. Close to 1000 Afghans a day have filed through the UNHCR’s two reprocessing centres – in the restive Pakistani cities of Peshawar and Quetta – since the UN refugee agency reopened its voluntary repatriation program late last month. The latest figures come just a fortnight after the Australian government announced it was suspending all Afghan and Sri Lankan refugee visa applications to try to dissuade a growing number of asylum-seekers arriving by boat. That decision is unlikely to have been a motivating factor for the thousands of families who have chosen to return to Afghanistan. The UNHCR said that, over the past month, returning refugees had cited rising living costs, fewer jobs and the difficult security situation in Pakistan as key reasons to go back to Afghanistan.

See:; Refugee hopefuls desert smuggling hub; Paul Maley; 28/4/10;;;

Girt by do-gooders
Yes Jim and Jan Moore (Letters 26/4), as you and many other asylum-seeker advocates have pointed out, our national anthem maintains that we have boundless plains to share. But bear in mind that the original version contained a verse that declared: “Should foreign foe e’er sight our coast / Or dare a foot to land / We’ll rouse to arms like sires of yore / To guard our native strand / Britannia then shall surely know / Beyond wide ocean’s roll / Her sons in fair Australia’s land / Still keep a British soul”. It is difficult to come up with a realistic asylum policy when one is girt by do-gooders. Martin Leonard, Hughes, ACT

Bloodthirsty brethren
Thanks to Martin Leonard, we now know that the lyrics of the Australian national anthem, like those of France, the US and the former USSR, contain expressions of archaic and bloody-minded jingoism (Letters, 26/4). Regrettably, Advance Australia Fair lacks the redeeming musical merits of those countries’ anthems. Paul Norton, Brisbane, Qld

People smuggling proposals blasted
Yuko Narushima; 28/4/10
A modern-day Oskar Schindler would be jailed for up 10 years under the Rudd government’s proposed crackdown on people smuggling, lawyers say. In largely unscrutinised changes, backed by the opposition, the government is introducing new criminal charges for supporting people smugglers, even unwittingly. ”It’s mind-blowing legislation. I’ve never seen anything like it,” the University of Sydney Professor of Public Law, Mary Crock, says. ”These laws capture innocent people who may be operating under perfectly good humanitarian reasons.” Currently, the law defines people smugglers as those who are acting for profit when bringing five or more people to Australia. Proposed laws make criminals of anyone sending money to asylum seekers overseas, who later use it to pay a people smuggler.