Concerns over Carr's comments on tougher asylum policy

Asylum-seeker advocacy groups have criticised calls from Foreign Minister Bob Carr for a tougher refugee determination process.

Senator Carr says he believes many of the people paying people-smugglers to come to Australia are economic migrants rather than genuine refugees fleeing persecution.

The foreign minister believes the current determination process needs to be changed to reflect this.

However the campaign coordinator at the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre in Melbourne, Pamela Curr, disagrees, saying most people who come to Australia by boat are fleeing discrimination.

“Hazaras are still the majority group seeking asylum in this country, followed by people from the Middle East: from Iraq, from Iran and the Tamil population,” she told SBS.

“We look at their countries and what we see is political and religious discrimination on a large scale and we see the reasons why people are coming. It's not economics - that's just political spin.”

Mr Carr last night said the asylum policies could be toughened under Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, because the nature of the asylum seeker boat arrival issue had changed.

"The people coming here by irregular maritime arrivals ... are being brought here by people smugglers - all of them," he told ABC television after the ballot.

"Second change - they're not people fleeing persecution.

"They're coming from majority religious or ethnic groups in the countries they're fleeing.

"They're coming here as economic migrants."

Senator Carr said the Labor government recognised that Australia needed to change the process of assessing the status of refugees because an overwhelming majority of applications is approved.

"We've reached the view that as a result of court and tribunal decisions, it's coming up wrong," he said.

"We need a tougher, more hard-edged assessment."

The coalition has recently reminded voters that more than 44,000 asylum seekers have arrived by boat in the five years since Mr Rudd dismantled Howard-era border protection policies.

Gillard backers have also expressed concerns that Mr Rudd's return will hurt Labor's chances in western Sydney seats, where many are still unhappy with his decision to ease Australia's asylum seeker policies.

Senator Carr travels to Jakarta on Thursday to meet his Indonesian counterpart.
Ms Gillard was due to meet President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on July 5 as part of regular annual leaders' talks.

Senator Carr hopes Mr Rudd will still be able to attend the meeting.

He says people-smuggling will "figure big" in the talks.

Refugee advocate Ian Rintoul called on Mr Rudd to distance himself from Senator Carr's comments.

"When Julia Gillard toppled Kevin Rudd, he famously declared that he would not be moving to the right on refugees," Mr Rintoul said in a statement.

"Rudd can now make good on his promise by closing Nauru and Manus Island and ending the government's `no advantage' rules that are denying processing and the right to work to thousands of asylum seekers."

Source: SBS, AAP

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