Thursday 16 May 2013

The Australian Human Rights Commission has expressed disappointment that the Migration Amendment (Unauthorised Maritime Arrivals and Other Measures) Bill 2012 has been passed today.

This legislation extends the system of third country processing to all asylum seekers who arrive by boat anywhere in Australia. It effectively prevents those people from having their refugee claims assessed in Australia, unless the Minister for Immigration makes a personal decision to exempt them from transfer to a third country.

“By targeting ‘unauthorised maritime arrivals’, the legislation discriminates against vulnerable people and penalises them because of the way they arrive in Australia,” Commission President, Professor Gillian Triggs said. “This undermines Australia’s obligations under the Refugee Convention.”

The Commission has repeatedly raised serious concerns about the fate of asylum seekers who are subjected to Australia’s third country processing regime.

“Transferring asylum seekers to third countries may lead to breaches of their human rights, including the right to be free from arbitrary detention and the right of children to have their best interests treated as a primary consideration,” Professor Triggs said.

She said children should only ever be detained if it is a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time.

“We have serious concerns about the ongoing detention of children on Manus Island in difficult conditions,” Professor Triggs said. “We have recommended that the Australian Government cease transferring asylum seekers to Manus Island, and that asylum seekers currently on Manus Island be returned to Australia.”

The Commission is also very concerned about the thousands of asylum seekers in immigration detention in Australia who remain subject to third country transfer, and whose claims for refugee status are not being assessed.

“In the Commission’s view, all asylum seekers who arrive in Australia should have their claims for protection processed under Australian law in a timely and efficient manner,” Professor Triggs said. “They should be transferred into the Australian community unless they have been individually assessed as posing an unacceptable risk that justifies their detention.”

Media contact: Brinsley Marlay (02) 9284 9656 or 0430 366 529