22 Jul 2010

Australian visa freeze having no effect - Pakistan

4:34 pm on 22 July 2010

Immigration officials in Pakistan say a six-month freeze by Australia on processing further applications from Afghan asylum seekers has had no effect on the number of Afghans trying to make their way to Australia.

The Federal Investigation Agency says the measure has not delivered any change in the numbers of Afghans travelling through Pakistan and hoping to get to Australia.

Pakistani officials now want Australian permission to interrogate asylum seekers on Christmas Island in an attempt to break people-smuggling rings in Pakistan.

FIA immigration director Mohammad Manzoor says the freeze has had "hardly any impact".

"Living conditions in Christmas Island are much better [than] in Afghanistan or in Quetta," he said.

"So they would [prefer to] be detained in Christmas Island than to live in Afghanistan."

The FIA says most of the Afghans passing through Pakistan are travelling on legal documents.

Mr Manzoor says the only way to break the people-smuggling syndicates is for Australian officials to let Pakistani investigators interrogate asylum seekers on Christmas Island.

The ABC reports Pakistan has 1.7 million registered Afghans living on its soil. Many have been there for up to 20 years.