1 Oct 2010

Afghan asylum freeze lifted by Australia

11:38 am on 1 October 2010

The Australian government has announced it is immediately lifting a freeze on processing the refugee claims of Afghan asylum seekers.

The six-month freeze on processing was due to expire in early October.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen says all Afghans affected will now have their claims assessed on a case-by-case basis.

The ABC reports that he does not expect the decision to affect the number of boat arrivals.

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison says the policy was an election-year fix that has resulted in overcrowded detention centres.

"I think this is going to take a long time to clear," he said.

However, Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young says the situation in Afghanistan is still very dangerous for many people.

She says the Government needs to deal with the backlog of claims quickly and ensure that enough resources are available.

Earlier this year the Government froze refugee applications of asylum seekers from Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.

But the freeze on Sri Lankans was lifted shortly after Prime Minister Julia Gillard came to office.

The ABC reports the Government is expanding the Curtin detention centre in Western Australia and is working to open an asylum seeker processing centre in East Timor.

The Opposition wants the Government to use a centre already in existence on Nauru.