hazara protests, quetta bombings
File photo/AFP

ISLAMABAD, Feb 21: Australia on Thursday denied it had launched any special asylum programme for the Hazaras, the target of the recent terrorist attacks in Quetta.

“Australia is sympathetic to communities affected by sectarian violence and acts of terrorism. While Australia’s offshore Humanitarian Programme has been increased in 2012-13, there are no new arrangements for particular ethnicities or people from a particular part of any country,” the Australian High Commission said in a statement, contradicting a report in Dawn on Thursday headlined “2,500 Hazara families offered asylum”.

Terming the report “incorrect”, it said: “Australia is not introducing a new programme to resettle Hazaras out of Pakistan and Australia’s ongoing resettlement programme is only for refugees.”

Australia’s priority is to assist those refugees who are the most vulnerable. Refugees, including the Afghan Hazaras wanting to be resettled in Australia, must be recognised by the UNHCR as meeting the criteria for refugee status.

To be considered for resettlement, they must be among the most vulnerable, said the statement.

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