CANBERRA, Australia – Australia's immigration minister on Tuesday urged tougher refugee rules that would deport refugees who took vacations in countries where they claimed to fear persecution.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton canceled the protection visas of six Iranians last year after discovering that they had returned to their homeland, where they claimed to fear for their lives.
But all six were allowed to stay in Australia after they successfully appealed to a court that hears public complaints about government decisions, News Corp. newspapers reported.
Rulings from the Administrative Appeals Tribunal can also be appealed in civil courts in what Dutton described as a "legal roundabout" and an "endless cycle of decision reviews."
The Australian system was "too generous" to asylum seekers and needed to be tightened with new laws, Dutton said.
"If you're claiming that you've got on a boat and come to our country to flee persecution from country X, and then you're heading back there to get married or heading back there for a family vacation, then really there is no validity to your claim," Dutton told Adelaide Radio FiveAA.
One Iranian claimed to have been on an Iranian wanted list and fled that country on a fake passport, newspapers reported.
After Australia accepted his refugee claim, he applied for an Iranian passport and used it to fly back to his homeland.
Another Iranian returned to Iran three times after becoming a refugee in Australia, once to marry, newspapers reported.
Two family members claimed to be stateless when they were accepted as refugees. Their story unraveled when a relative who wanted to join them in Australia provided evidence that all three were Iranian citizens.
An Iranian couple claimed in their protection visa application that they had no identity documents, but later returned to Iran on Iranian passports.
Dutton's office confirmed that the newspaper reports of the six Iranians' circumstances were accurate. Their names cannot be published under Australian law.
The six paid smugglers to bring them from Indonesia to Australia before the government introduced a tough policy in 2013 that prevents any refugees who arrive by boat from ever settling in Australia.
The United States has agreed to accept up to 1,250 of these refugees who are languishing in camps on the Pacific island nations of Nauru and Papua New Guinea.
But U.S. officials are doing their own background checks to ensure that only genuine refugees are accepted by the United States.
The Refugee Council of Australia, an advocacy group, said Australia needed safeguards to ensure that rejected asylum seekers were not returned to danger or death.
"The vast majority of people who have arrived in Australia by boat have been found to have a well-founded fear of persecution and have proven to be refugees — over the last 40 years this number is in excess of 80 percent," Paul Power, the council's chief executive, said in a statement.