SMH-2002-07-22 reports that the immigration department is reopening over
three hundred hundred assessments of temporary protection visas (TPVs) because of
suspicions that they had been obtained under false pretenses.
SMH reports that specifically, action had been taken to cancel Mr Bakhtairi's
visa, saying that he was not a subsistence farmer from a small village in
Afghanistan as he claims. Instead, the department claims to have located one
person who knows him as an electrical plumber from Quetta, Pakistan.
On the other hand SBS-2002-07-22 has a witness who say that he can vouch
for Mr Bakhtairi's Afghan credentials. Of course he is a also a TPV, and won't
actually identify himself. So much for 'coming forward' - anyone can make an
anonymous claim of whatever they like.
The stage is set for a showdown.
While claims of Taliban oppression could never be proven or disproven
(oppression, like beauty is ultimately in the eye of the beholder), other
things can be tested - like which country you are from. With Australia now
having a significance presence in Afghanistan, it is possible to actually go to
the village where this man claims to have come from, and show his picture
around ('do you know this man?'). Even people don't cooperate, photos can be
taken and showed to the asylum seeker ('is this your village'). If he says
yes, and it's actually a shot of a village in another part of the country, then
he has a great deal more explaining to do.
Of course finding people in another country who are willing to identify the
picture is even more powerful. ('Yup that's Abdul alright. We went to school
While only the brave would predict the outcome of this case, we can be
reasonably sure that the immigration department will put in the resources in
this case to find an answer. But we can play the what-if game right now.
If Mr Bakhtairi is shown to be telling the truth, then this will be a major
win for the pro-asylum-seeker lobby. The Australian Government's testing
mechanism will have shown to be flawed, and the cries of 'give asylum-seekers
the benefit of the doubt' will be quite compelling.
On the other hand if Mr Bakhtairi is lying his future will look quite
different. His whole family will have been found to be lying. His brother
jumping into razor wire will be regarded as another stunt, The children's
reports of abuse in Woomera (like having guards steal their toys) will be
assumed to be baseless. Far from being pawns of the Australian authorities,
they will look like pawns of the pro-asylum-seekers, and (more significantly)
of their own families.
Choosing this particular family as the test case may turn out to be the
most stupid move which the pro-asylum-seeker lobby has made to date. Or it may
prove to be smartest.
Either way, this is a showdown worth watching. Neither side is blinking,
both sides have raised the stakes, and eventually everyone is going to see the
cards. One side is about to lose a lot of credibility.
Perhaps the family can be comforted by the fact that at least they are
unlikely to be deported to Afghanistan. Unless it's just a stop-over.