Singaporean fails in bid for refugee protection in Australia

Being in debt and threatened by unlicensed moneylenders not valid grounds: Tribunal

A Singaporean has failed in his application for refugee protection in Australia, with an Australian tribunal noting that being in debt and threatened by unlicensed moneylenders in Singapore is no grounds to seek such protection.

The tribunal cited the sound system for law and order here, saying there was no reason why the applicant could not seek redress for his problems in Singapore.

Based on the evidence before it, the tribunal considered that the applicant could access "effective" and "durable" protection in Singapore, noting the country's appropriate criminal law, effective police force and impartial judicial system.

"Accordingly, the tribunal considers that the applicant does not have a real chance of serious harm for this reason, on return to Singapore," tribunal member Stuart Webb wrote in decision grounds released last month.

Australia is a signatory to the international 1951 Status of Refugees Convention obliging member states to grant protection to people recognised as refugees due to well-founded fears based on various reasons.

The Singaporean, whose details were redacted from the judgment grounds, had appealed to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal at a Melbourne hearing in June after his application for a protection visa was rejected by a representative of Australia's Immigration Minister.

  • SAFE IN SINGAPORE

    The tribunal considers that the applicant does not have a real chance of serious harm... on return to Singapore.

    TRIBUNAL MEMBER STUART WEBB, in decision grounds released last month.

"My life will be in danger if I return to Singapore. All I hope for is a chance for me to start anew and to keep my life safe," said the Singaporean at the tribunal hearing.

He had completed military service, worked well in Singapore but claimed that he was bound to pay for his clients who suffered losses during the 2009 financial crisis.

He had worked as a sales executive on a commission basis, for which he received 40 per cent of the returns. He had undertaken in his contract with the company to be liable for any losses.

He started borrowing after using up all his savings, and went into overdrive by working up till the "wee hours of the morning" to no avail.

  • Other attempts that were rejected

    •Last month, a Canadian Federal Court in British Columbia turned down a Singaporean's bid for refugee protection in Vancouver, finding his claims of alleged potential persecution in Singapore unfounded.

    Mr Jedidiah Tan, 23, who was exempted from national service on medical grounds after serving two months, had claimed the exemption was revocable and that he had no redress in Singapore except military justice.

    The court was not convinced, ruling that "clear and convincing evidence that is both relevant and reliable, and sufficient" must be produced to show that state protection is inadequate. It noted that the Singapore authorities had "acted reasonably and expeditiously" in exempting Mr Tan from national service.

    •In October 2013, a Canadian court based in Toronto rejected a refugee status bid by a Singaporean who feared he would be discriminated and persecuted here because he is gay. The court accepted that he was harassed in the past but this did not mean persecution as it "did not amount to the denial of a core human right".

    The court added that his fears of being abused in national service were " speculative".

    K.C. Vijayan

" Because of my debts, problems arose from everywhere," he said, adding that his debts never decreased over the four years because of the high interest rates.

"They would threaten me, they would be abusive to me and I had suicidal thoughts," he said, referring to the unlicensed moneylenders.

He added that after he fled Singapore for Australia in 2013, his Singapore-based mum told him "they came to look for me and threatened to kill me if they found me".

Details of the sums involved were redacted from the judgment grounds. He had borrowed from two licensed moneylenders and another unlicensed one.

The tribunal noted he left Singapore in a "very orderly" manner after organising his affairs in May 2013, having resigned from the company a month earlier. It further observed that his parents were asked where he was in 2013 but have not been approached in the three years since and neither has he disclosed any further threats to him.

The tribunal discussed information about the Singapore police and the authorities in general, citing various sources, including a United States State Department report.

The Singaporean agreed with the tribunal's summation that the Singapore police had a good reputation and " Singapore was noted for the security it had".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 05, 2016, with the headline 'Singaporean fails in bid for refugee protection in Australia'. Print Edition | Subscribe