Deported refugee killed

A Palestinian refugee, Akram al Masri, who was deported from Australia in 2002 has been killed in his homeland less than six months after Australian authorities refused him a visitor's visa.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Mr al Masri who was deported by the Howard Government and denied sanctuary in Australia again this year, has been shot dead in Gaza, leaving behind a wife and four children.

Akram al Masri, who was sent back to Gaza in September 2002 despite refuge advocates winning his release from Woomera detention centre, applied for a visitor's visa in February after the murder of his brother, fearing he and his family would be killed.

His plea was rejected.

Refugee advocates who supported Mr Masri said the killing, outside a courthouse near the Khan Yunis refugee camp, might have been carried out by the Palestinian political party Fatah, which wrongly believed he was an Israeli collaborator.

But sources in Gaza suggested the 31 year old was killed to avenge his alleged involvement in the deaths of two members of a rival clan 18 months ago, part of a long feud.

A refugee advocate, Marilyn Shepherd, told the Herald she and Mr al Masri's uncle, who lives in Adelaide, had submitted the application for a visitor's visa through the office of the Labor senator Linda Kirk in February, soon after the murder of Mr al Masri's brother, "but the department put the red flag up on us."

"He said all along that his life was in danger but they never believed him - when the al Masri name came up, the shutters at the department went down.

"He was gunned down in broad daylight in cold blood. His mother was killed before he claimed refugee status here, his brother was killed last year, and he was gunned down yesterday like a dog on the side of the road."

Jesuit Fr Frank Brennan, a refugee advocate and author of a book on the immigration system, Tampering With Asylum, said it was clear that Mr al Masri "like his brother, was a marked man".

Fr Brennan, who knew Mr al Masri well, described him as a young man who fled to a safe country in the hope that his family could follow.

"He had a deep love of his wife and children, he wept for Palestine, and despite the dreadful adversity of Woomera, he always had a sense of humour."

Phil Glendenning from the Edmund Rice Centre says Mr al Masri's death is a tragedy, Radio Australia reports.

"Mr al Masri told people in Australia he would be killed and that is what happened."

A spokesman for the Immigration Minister Chris Evans says the department has been asked to investigate reports of his death.

The Department says it doesn't keep track of people once they're deported and at this stage, isn't aware of the circumstances surrounding Mr Al Masri's death.


Deported refugee shot dead (Sydney Morning Herald, 2/8/08)

Australia to investigate death of asylum seeker in Gaza (Radio Australia, 2/8/08)


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