Wednesday 14 September 2016

The Australian Human Rights Commission has today released a report which outlines potential policy alternatives to the current model of third country processing and practical measures to strike a balance between protecting human rights and preventing dangerous sea journeys.

Pathways to Protection: A human rights-based response to the flight of asylum seekers by sea calls for the creation of more opportunities for safe entry to Australia and enhanced cooperation between Australia and countries in the region to improve the protection of refugees and people seeking asylum.

The Commission does not underestimate the challenges that flight by sea poses for Australia and its neighbours in the Asia–Pacific region. The proposals discussed in this report aim to achieve policy solutions that meet Australia’s international human rights obligations and continue Australia’s historical generosity to those who have sought its protection over many decades. 

In suggesting options for an alternative response to flight by sea, the Commission recognises that there are no easy or comprehensive solutions. We do not have all the answers. Nor are our proposals necessarily original. The report is not prescriptive and aims only to inform debate and a more humane policy responses to claims for asylum.

Some of the specific options put forward in the report include:

  • Increasing funding for humanitarian agencies, NGOs and community groups working with refugees in the region
  • Restoring and expanding aid to countries affected by displacement
  • Engaging with countries in the region on a broader range of migration issues to provide a useful entry point for future discussions on refugee protection
  • Increasing opportunities for safe departure, such as through introducing temporary visas for the purpose of seeking asylum
  • Addressing barriers to skilled and family migration, including through providing waivers, differentiated processing procedures, access to relevant services and safeguards against refoulement
  • Enhancing access to study opportunities through addressing barriers to student visas and offering scholarships and targeted study opportunities.

“This report is intended to contribute positively to public debate on alternatives to current third country processing of asylum seeks on Manus Island and Nauru,” said Commission President, Professor Gillian Triggs.

“I am confident that, with informed and respectful discussion, Australia will rise to the challenge of a humane response to those who seek our protection from conflict and persecution,” she said.

The options canvassed in the report have been developed in consultation with academics, government, non-government organisations, intergovernmental bodies and think tanks who have expertise in the areas of refugee policy, human rights, international law and protection issues in the Asia–Pacific region.

Read the full report here -