Policy on asylum-seekers


Sir, - Mr Ashton (March 16th) may see nothing objectionable with the way Australia handles asylum seekers. That is not, however, how the UN sees it.

The UN Human Rights Committee has ruled that the compulsory detention of asylum seekers violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Indeed the Taoiseach has in the past accepted that even terrorist suspects should not be subjected to such detention.

His contention that the asylum process has "been degraded into a purely criminal activity" is over the top to say the least. I'm sure he knows someone who entered the US illegally desperate for work in the bad old days, but I doubt he wrote letters to the newspapers condemning them and calling for a crackdown. If criminal activity is taking place, it is filling the void left by the continued lack of a coherent Government policy on the issue.

It is the lack of Government action that has created the backlog in the processing of applications for asylum that he complains about. He glosses over the issue of refugees: if someone is fleeing persecution, we have a moral and legal obligation to shelter them, no matter how they got here.

While Mr Ashton talks of advancing the debate on the issue, his narrow-minded and mean-spirited approach is a step backwards. - Yours, etc.,

Peter Fitzgerald, Arran Quay, Dublin 7.