Date: 
Thursday 30 March 2017

A new report on asylum seekers, refugees and human rights has been released today, aiming to give parliamentarians, key commentators and the community a clear understanding of the human rights issues that arise from Australia’s refugee and asylum seeker policies.

The Snapshot Report is an updated version of a 2013 publication and aims to help readers understand the relationship between Australia’s policies and our international obligations. The 2017 Report outlines both positive developments and current challenges facing asylum seekers and refugees.

“The Australian Human Rights Commission is pleased to see some significant positive improvements in refugee policy, in particular the reduction in the overall number of people living in immigration detention and the release of almost all children from closed detention,” said Commission President, Professor Gillian Triggs.

“Another positive development has been the reinstatement of work rights for most asylum seekers living in the community,” she said.

While there is some good news, the Commission remains concerned about third country processing, changes to Australia’s system for processing refugee claims and policies which discriminate against refugees based on their mode of arrival.

“Third country processing in Nauru and Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island continues to raise numerous human rights concerns. Living conditions remain below international standards; there has been an increase in safety concerns, including multiple reports of physical and sexual assault; and durable solutions for people found to be refugees have proven difficult to find,” said Professor Triggs.

“Changes to Australia’s refugee status determination process may place people seeking asylum at higher risk of being returned to danger. Refugees who arrived in Australia without visas are now eligible for temporary protection only, and do not have access to the same support services and entitlements as refugees on permanent humanitarian visas.

“Our country maintains a generous resettlement program, a network of highly-regarded settlement services and a reputation as a successful multicultural society. However, these achievements — of which Australians can be rightly proud — continue to be overshadowed by our current treatment of people seeking asylum,” said Professor Triggs.

The full report can be found here.

Photo: UNHCR & Shawn Baldwin