There have been growing concerns and discontent from migration agents and the Afghan community about the poor decision making from Dubai – especially with family related visasand the seemingly impossible demands the DIAC staff in Dubai are making for documents from people who have fled civil war and are currently living in danger in countries of first asylum.
Several meetings have been held between migration agents who are dealing with the Afghan caseload and the Australian Consulate General (visa section) in Dubai. The agents who have contributed to these discussions are from West Australia, South Australia, Queensland and NSW.
We have attempted to indicate what the requirements/ demands of DIAC are in relation to documents; alternative and conflicting information that we as migration agents have obtained, and the main issues that have arisen as a consequence. We have also made some suggestions for consideration.
The issues covered are:
1. Requests for translations by the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA)
3. Marriage Certificates
4. Proof of residence cards
6. Biometrics and use of VSF office for lodgement of applications
8. DNA tests
9. Original Documents
10. Decision making and set aside rate of the MRT
1 and 2 - REQUESTS FOR TRANSLATIONS and TASKERAS
DIAC requests all documents to be certified by the MFA. In the case of taskeras, DIAC stipulate they can only be certified AND translated by the MFA in Kabul.
ISSUES RAISED BY MIGRATION AGENTS
1. The majority of these clients are refugees, residing illegally in Quetta, Pakistan. They have not only fled severe persecution in their own country of Afghanistan, but continue to face persecution in Quetta where daily murders and attacks are occurring. The majority of the clients are mothers with children and have no male protection. It is not safe for them to leave their homes, let alone leave the Hazara areas of Quetta and travel by train or plane to other cities of Pakistan.
2. The UNHCR in Canberra also advised Libby Hogarth on 23d January 2013 :”According to representatives from the Afghan Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation based in Islamabad, the Afghan authorities in Pakistan do not issue Tazkeras for Afghan citizens in Pakistan. If an Afghan citizen wishes to obtain Tazkera, s/he needs to return to Afghanistan.”
3. How can the Australian Government ask an asylum seeker or refugee to return to Kabul in their country of persecution, to get documents? This is tantamount to a refoulment situation.
4. We are aware of several clients who have arranged for family members to do the trip. It has cost each of them more than $2000aud. They advise the MFA do not check any records and simply work out the date of birth of the client by looking at photos or looking at the person and making a guess. We have also received reports that bribes for translations in US$ are now requested by MFA staff in Kabul.
5. This raises serious questions concerning the validity and accuracy of documents provided by that office and the reasons behind the Departments request to use the MFA when the procedures appear to be as corrupt as any other offices.
6. There is also no means by which to ascertain whether the MFA provides translation services itself or whether these are contracted out, and how services are quality controlled – unlike NAATI services.
7. We suggest that if the purpose of this exercise is document identity and to circumvent high levels of fraud, then the Australian embassy should accept the documents from our clients and then work direct with the MFA to ascertain authenticity of the documents.
3. MARRIAGE CERTIFICATES:
RECEIVED FROM THE CONSULATE GENERAL OFFICE (DIAC) IN DUBAI (information sent to Migration Agents in late 2012):
Marriages in Afghanistan: For a marriage to be valid, it must be registered with the Supreme Court of Afghanistan as per Section 61 of the Afghan Civil Code. This office will only accept a marriage certificate (Iqrarnama/Nikahnama) which is endorsed with a stamp of the Supreme Court AND attested by the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) in Kabul along with its official MFA translation. Please note any marriage certificate not carrying the endorsements from the Supreme Court and MFA will not be considered an acceptable evidence of marriage.
Marriages in Pakistan: For an Afghan national who married in Pakistan and registered their marriage at an Afghan mission, they must provide a marriage book attested by the Afghan Embassy in Islamabad or the Afghan Consulates in Peshawar, Quetta or Karachi and the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kabul.
If an Afghan national is married in Pakistan under the Pakistan's Marriage Act (1961), the marriage certificate must be endorsed by the Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad.
A marriage certificate without the required endorsements will not be accepted.
ISSUES RAISED BY MIGRATION AGENTS
1. On what date was s.61 of the Afghan Civil code enacted? If a legal provision is not implemented in practice, as many are not around the world, it is incumbent upon the decision maker to take such country information into account, particularly in relation to those from refugee backgrounds, as they do in relation to protection claims – eg, the existence of domestic violence legislation that is routinely ignored by all relevant actors.
People living in remote Afghan villages did not, and were not required to, register births and marriages. Even in places where people did have certificates in the past the refugees often did not think to take such documents when fleeing the country. For those who had the certificates, DIAC is now telling them they are not valid certificates and must be certified by MFA or Supreme Court etc.
2. The Migration Act 1958 and Migration Regulations recognise various forms of marriage other than an officially registered marriage. Traditional and customary marriages are recognised as are defacto relationships. In light of this the demand for a Supreme Court marriage certificate, especially when there are children of the relationship as evidence that the couple have been in a relationship, is even more galling
4 . POR – PROOF OF RESIDENCE CARDS
FROM THE CONSULATE GENERAL OFFICE IN DUBAI (information sent to migration agents in late 2012)
Afghan nationals who have been residing in Pakistan since before 2009 must provide a Proof of Residence (PoR) Card, which is a mandatory residence permit issued to Afghan citizens living in Pakistan. Failure of a long-term Afghan resident in Pakistan to provide their PoR card will trigger a higher level of scrutiny of their identity.
ISSUES RAISED BY MIGRATION AGENTS
1. According to the UNHCR and other sources, PoR cards are no longer issued.
Why is DIAC demanding documentation that respected international agencies such as the UNHCR have verified are no longer available? Surely the Department of Immigration receives expert advice on the availability of documents/ types of Identity documents etc available for each client group prior to insisting that clients obtain such documents?
2. The UNHCR wrote on 23 January 2013:
In February - March 2005 the Government of Pakistan conducted census for Afghan citizens. Based on the census, registration of Afghans took place between October 2006 and February 2007.
Registration was limited to Afghan citizens who had arrived or born in Pakistan after 1 December 1979. Registration of Afghans was complete in October 2006 - February 2007. Since February 2007, no new registration of Afghan citizens has taken place.
PoR cards issued to Afghans in 2006 - 2007 that were initially valid until the end of 2009 were extended by the Government of Pakistan until 31 December 2012. The Government recently decided to extend validity of PoR cards for six months til 30 June 2013.
Holding a PoR card does not automatically allow Afghans in Pakistan to buy a mobile SIM cards, enroll in a school, have utilities connections, obtain a driver's licence, security licence or a trade licence. Although a PoR card holder might be able to rent a property.
UNHCR has assisted the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) to operate PoR Card Modification Centers throughout Pakistan to update, correct or modify the details recorded on PoR cards previously issued by NADRA. These include mistakes in the spellings of names and dates of birth, registration of unregistered members of registered families, the inclusion of new born babies, and children who turned five and now need their own cards. Damaged, stolen or lost PoR cards can be replaced.
Re: Birth Certificates for Afghans born in Pakistan
-NADRA has issued birth certificates for children whose parents are PoR card holders. If parents are not PoR card holders, children cannot obtain birth certificates from NADRA.
The Australian Embassy in Dubai requests extremely detailed addresses for clients for the past thirty years. It is understood that some of this information may have been prompted by requests from an outside organisation dealing with the character issues for clients.
The request from the embassy is usually worded as follows: - Complete residential history for the last 10 years including house no/street name/building number/village/town/landmark - if exact address is unknown, please provide the home location description (example: the white house behind the Rose Laundry on Street no 3C, Kabul, Afghanistan)
ISSUES RAISED BY MIGRATION AGENTS
We respect and understand the need for detailed current addresses however have a number of concerns about the requests for addresses for thirty years and the often inflexible request for further details when the “address” is a small village without house numbers or streets.
Our clients are refugees who have fled civil unrest and many of them have witnessed, or suffered from, extreme violence. Many of them have constantly moved around. Even in Quetta it is common for people to have to move every 6 months. The majority of clients are able to advise us of the areas in which they lived but to provide detailed addresses in such circumstances is not possible. Most places even in Quetta do not have house or street numbers.
We have worked very hard with our clients, even using google maps, to identity current residential addresses but to try and do the same in order to collect addresses for the previous 30 years is simply not possible and we submit is unreasonable. Even a healthy educated Australian person who has regularly moved, can find it extremely difficult to remember exact addresses and dates of when and where they have lived. It is unreasonable to expect the same of a traumatised person who has moved under wartime/ crisis conditions and on top of that, is from a culture where no interest is taken of such detail of addresses and dates.
Stella Van Der Krogt
20 February 2013