Following Them Home: the fate of the returned asylum seekers

As with the title reviewed above, this book provides particular insights into the refugee experience. But its focus is on those not even allowed to settle – the deportees and failed asylum seekers whose claims are rejected, in this case by the Australian Government. Many who tell their stories have been returned ‘home’ or, in some cases, offloaded to any other country that will take them.

Writer David Corlett contends that the Government is not meeting its duty of care to the asylum seekers it deports and he documents their harsh treatment in Australia, its territories and beyond. Some have spent years waiting for a response to their claim, shunted from one desert detention centre on the mainland to another. Others fall foul of the Pacific Solution – a policy preventing asylum seekers’ access to the Australian judicial system.

The lives of the deportees are precarious. Some have been returned to dangerous places, such as Afghanistan, only to find their families have fled. Others have landed in Tehran to be locked in squalid jail cells for having Christian reading material in their suitcases. The case of the Bakhtiyari family in particular illustrates the enduring effects of an uncertain present and future, and also the tug-of-war between politicians and activists.

New Internationalist issue 391 magazine cover This article is from the July 2006 issue of New Internationalist.
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