Sydney: Afghan asylum seekers who failed in their bids to remain in Australia should not be returned to their home country where they risked death, a leading expert said on Wednesday.
Professor William Maley, one of Australia`s foremost experts on Afghanistan, called for a moratorium on the repatriation of Afghans.
His comments follow a 20-year-old man from the Hazara ethnic minority, Afghanistan`s most oppressed group, hanging himself at an Australian centre on Monday after reportedly waiting almost a year for a decision on his case.
Maley, director of the Asia-Pacific College of Diplomacy at the Australian National University, said most of the 50 Afghans Australia wanted to return were Hazaras -- a Shia Muslim group persecuted by the Taliban.
He claimed the immigration department`s processing of refugee claims "has become so haphazard there is a grave danger that people in need of protection might be thrown, metaphorically, to the wolves."
"There should be a moratorium on returning anyone to Afghanistan until the integrity of the assessment process can be properly guaranteed," he told The Australian newspaper.
Researchers at Sydney`s Edmund Rice Centre estimate that nine Afghans were killed after being sent home by the previous conservative government of prime minister John Howard.
In one reported case, a Hazara man deported in 2008 was kidnapped by Taliban forces and taken to his home village in Ghazni province where he was thrown down a well in front of his family before a grenade was dropped in to kill him.
"I have grave fears for Afghans who are sent back," the director of the think-tank, Phil Glendenning, told the same newspaper. "If the government can`t guarantee their safety, they should not be returned."
The latest suicide comes as refugee advocates say tensions are rising in detention centres, which are strained to capacity by boatpeople who are held while their claims are assessed.
A refugee group said a 26-year-old Tamil asylum seeker attempted to commit suicide on Wednesday. The immigration department said he attempted to self-harm but sustained only minor injuries.