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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 December, 2004, 15:16 GMT
Australia deports migrant family
By Phil Mercer
BBC, Sydney

Alamdar and Muntazer Bakhtiyari at the time of their escape in 2002
The Bakhtiyari children escaped their detention centre in 2002

Australia has deported a family of asylum-seekers, the Bakhtiyaris, to Pakistan - ending a four-year battle.

Officials said they were Pakistani economic migrants and not, as they had claimed, Afghans fleeing persecution.

Their fight to stay made the family a symbol of Australia's controversial immigration policies, which include detention of asylum-seekers.

Immigration minister Amanda Vanstone said the Bakhtiyaris' asylum claims had been through a fair legal process.

The Bakhtiyaris have spent the past four years trying to convince Australia they are ethnic Hazaris from Afghanistan - a minority oppressed by the former Taleban regime.

They took their case to various courts and tribunals on 20 occasions - but their fight is now over.

They were deported in the middle of the night and were put on a plane to Pakistan, which the government here believes is their home.

Foreign concerns

Opposition politicians have insisted that the way the family was treated by the authorities was appalling.

Woomera asylum seekers' detention camp
Australia's detention policy for refugees was widely criticised
The asylum-seekers had up until recently been living in suburban Adelaide, pending the outcome of a final appeal to Australia's High Court.

When that failed, the six Bakhtiyari children and their mother and father were taken back into detention.

The Bakhtiyaris' case reached international prominence two years ago when the eldest sons escaped from the Womera detention centre.

They sought refuge in the British consulate in Melbourne, but were turned away.

At the Court of Appeal in London, their lawyers argued that the UK government had breached the European convention on human rights by failing to protect the two Bakhtiyari brothers from degrading treatment by Australian immigration officials.

Their case was dismissed and the boys, along with the rest of their family, are on their way to face an uncertain future in Pakistan.

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