Coptic Christians facing deportation get reprieve from government

The federal government has announced it will review all applications by Coptic Christians who have been refused asylum in Australia.

Coptic Christian asylum seekers in Australia facing deportation will have their cases reviewed after pressure on the federal government and recent Islamic State attacks in Egypt.

Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Alex Hawke on Wednesday told SBS World News he was reviewing all applications by those who have been refused by both the Department and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

“The government will carefully assess cases of Coptic Christians in Australia during this period of emergency in Egypt,” he said in a statement.

“Copts in Australia will have an appropriate visa during this period to remain lawfully here.”

The Coptic Bishop of Australia, Anba Suriel, has raised fears that more than 20 Coptic families face being deported to Egypt, calling on the government to offer protection to them.

That call received the backing of the Australian Christian Lobby.

Mr Hawke said the government would continue to work with the Coptic community, the Australian Embassy in Egypt and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to ensure immigration decisions reflect the current situation in Egypt.

But appropriate checks would still be conducted.

“Like any other visa applicant, each case will be assessed on its merits with careful consideration given to the identity, authenticity of documents, credibility of claims and character of the applicant,” Mr Hawke said.

“Those found not to engage Australia’s protection obligations will be expected to depart Australia at an appropriate time in the future.”

It comes after an Islamic State attack on a bus in Minya province in central Egypt that killed dozens of Christians, and follows a string of major assaults on Christians in the past six months.

Coptic Christians make up about 10 per cent of Egypt’s 90-million population.