Date: 
Monday 13 February 2017

Author

Professor Gillian Triggs, President

As recent reports allege asylum seekers are being removed from Manus Island and returned to their place of origin, Commission President, Prrofessor Gillian Triggs, reflects on the nation's responsibilities.

Australia has obligations under the several international human rights treaties - the Refugee Convention, the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention Against Torture and the Convention on the Rights of the Child - not to return anyone to a situation where they may face persecution, torture or other forms of serious mistreatment.

This obligation, called non-refoulement, is so fundamental that it is considered part of customary human rights law – a principle all countries are expected to respect and uphold regardless of which international treaties they have signed.

The Commission welcomes the progress made with refugee status determination in Nauru and Papua New Guinea.

However, any third country processing arrangements must contain adequate safeguards to ensure that people are not returned to places of danger.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has previously expressed concern about the lack of an adequate legal and regulatory framework for conducting refugee status determination in Papua New Guinea, and the limited capacity of Papua New Guinean officials to conduct status determination for complex caseloads.

Australia and Papua New Guinea share joint responsibility for the protection and welfare of people subject to third country processing. It is vital that they work together to ensure that no one is returned to a situation where their life, safety or freedom may be at risk.