Joint NGO submission regarding Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation

The Human Rights Law Centre, UNICEF Australia, Save the Children, Plan, the Human Rights Council of Australia and Children’s Rights International, made a joint written submission earlier this month outlining the grave human rights risks posed by the Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload) Bill 2014 (Cth), introduced into Parliament by Immigration Minister Scott Morrison on 25 September 2014.

You can download the submission here and read our media release here.

NGO Report to UN Committee Against Torture 2014

In a detailed joint report, a coalition of non-government organisations has assessed Australia’s track record against the UN’s Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which Australia signed up to in 1985. The report – endorsed by organisations such as People with Disability Australia, Save the Children and the Refugee Council of Australia – finds that overall, Australia’s standards are declining.

The report was prepared by the Human Rights Law Centre for the UN’s Committee Against Torture ahead of its review of Australia’s compliance with the Convention schedule to take place in November. The Committee, made up of independent international experts, will consider Australia’s track record and make a series of findings and recommendations.

A media release about the report can be found here.

Submission: Australia should not return a person to a place where there’s a 50/50 chance they’ll be killed

Proposed amendments to the Migration Act would significantly increase the risk of people being returned to persecution, the HRLC has said in a submission to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee.

HRLC Director of Legal Advocacy, Daniel Webb, explained that a person is currently eligible for Australia’s protection under these treaties if there is a “real risk” they’ll face significant harm on return. The changes would raise that threshold to “more likely than not” – that is, a probability of greater than 50%.

The proposed reforms also require protection visas to be denied to asylum seekers who have refused or failed to establish their identity, nationality or citizenship or provided ‘bogus’ identity documents. The HRLC submission says such reforms overlook the nature of flight from persecution.

The HRLC’s submission made the following recommendations:

  • that the existing threshold for complementary protection be retained;
  • the proposed new sections requiring visas to be denied to asylum seekers who have failed to establish their identity, nationality or citizenship or provided ‘bogus’ documents be removed from the Bill; and
  • the proposed new section imposing a legal burden of proof on asylum seeker to prove their claims be removed from the Bill.

 

A copy of HRLC's submission can be found here.

 

A media release on the topic can be found here.

 

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Submission: Refugee security assessments must be fair, transparent and accountable

The rights of refugees shouldn’t be contingent on secretive, non-reviewable ASIO assessments, the HRLC has said in a submission to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee which is conducting an inquiry into proposed amendments to the Migration Act which would make eligibility for a protection visa dependent on not being assessed as a security risk by ASIO.

HRLC Director of Legal Advocacy, Daniel Webb, said that the proposed reforms entrench ASIO assessments at the centre of refugee processing but contain no safeguards to make sure the security assessment process is fair. Refugees have no right to appeal ASIO’s decision or to an explanation of the reasons behind it.

“It is vital that profoundly important decisions affecting the lives and liberty of vulnerable people be made through a process that is fair, transparent and accountable. The ASIO security assessment process is anything but” said Mr Webb.

The HRLC’s submission made the following recommendations:

  • Applicants for protection visas should be afforded the same legal right as citizens and permanent residents to seek merits review of ASIO security assessments in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
  • There should be legislative provision for regular (i.e. at least 6 monthly) consideration of whether the deemed security threat posed by a person can be addressed in manner less harmful and restrictive than detention.
  • The national security grounds on which a protection visa may be refused should be confined to the exclusion grounds under the Refugee Convention.

A copy of the HRLC’s submission can be found here.

A media release on the topic can be found here.