Australia Denies 'Coercing' Mentally-Ill Syrian Refugees to Return to Homeland

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By Reissa Su | August 21, 2014 9:41 AM EST

The International Organisation for Migration has denied claims it is aiding Australia to send asylums seekers back to Syria.

REUTERS/Aulia Pratama/Files
Asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran cry as Indonesian officers force them to leave the Australian vessel Hermia docked at Indah Kiat port in Merak, Indonesia's Banten province in this April 9, 2012 file photo.

According to the Guardian, Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has earlier claimed the organisation as its partner in sending back refugees in Manus Island to Syria.

Based on the emails from the department of immigration obtained by the media agency under the freedom of information act, discussions regarding the return of Syrian asylum seekers back to their homeland.

Australia was attempting to do the "unthinkable" by returning refugees to Syria, according to the Human Rights Watch.

In an interview with Sky television, Morrison said it was "ridiculous" to think that asylum seekers were being "coerced" to go back to Syria. He insisted the refugees wanted to return. The immigration minister revealed there were half a dozen Syrian refugees on Manus Islnad. He reiterated it was a voluntary return arrangement in partnership with the International Organisation for Migration.

However, a spokesperson said the organisation is not helping in the return of Syrian refugees. Syria has been identified as one of the countries where the organisation has suspended its operations. The spokesperson advised Syrians to seek assistance from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection if they wish to voluntarily return.

As published in the Guardian, the emails reveal the actions Morrison's department has taken to arrange the return of Syrian refugees. The information supports previous reports of Syrians telling Australia's immigration that they will be killed if they will go back to Syria. However, the department still arranged for them to leave.

The immigration department has begun sharing documents with the Syrian consulate in Australia and booked flights with Jordan as the destination. The said actions were reportedly interpreted as an "ultimatum" so asylum seekers will be forced to return. Most of the Syrian refugees are suffering from mental illness.

Human Rights Watch Australia director Elaine Pearson said Australia is doing the "unthinkable" by sending Syrians back when Syrian authorities are currently "committing crimes against humanity." She added that Syrian refugees may be risking their lives now since the Australian government has shared their identities with the Syrian embassy. 

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(Photo: REUTERS/Aulia Pratama/Files / )
Asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran cry as Indonesian officers force them to leave the Australian vessel Hermia docked at Indah Kiat port in Merak, Indonesia's Banten province in this April 9, 2012 file photo.
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