Administrative convenience doesn’t trump our legal and moral duty to protect people from persecution – HRLC Submission

The Australian Government should not introduce reforms which prioritise administrative convenience over protection from persecution, the HRLC has said in a submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee.

The Committee is conducting an inquiry into a raft of proposed changes to the Migration Act. One of the key amendments would expressly bar asylum seekers who did not know of, or understand, an original protection visa application made on their behalf from making a fresh application.  

The HRLC’s Director of Legal Advocacy, Daniel Webb, said that the reforms would prevent some particularly vulnerable asylum seekers from having genuine claims properly and fairly assessed.

“The changes would prohibit a child or person with a mental impairment from raising genuine  protection claims just because someone else may have previously made an application on their behalf – even if that application was made without their understanding or permission”, said Mr Webb.

In justifying the need for the reforms, the Government has said that they are necessary because without them there would be a theoretical risk of repeated frivolous claims.

The HRLC disagrees. “The theoretical risk of a few meritless claims doesn’t justify legislatively barring all claims”, said Mr Webb.

“If the changes aren’t passed, the worst thing that could happen is the Government might have to decide a few extra applications. But if the reforms go ahead, the risk is that genuine protection claims will be barred and some refugees will be returned to harm without having them properly assessed”, said Mr Webb.

The proposed changes are latest in a series of moves to make it harder to apply for a protection visa, including repealing complementary protection provisions and scrapping free legal advice.

“This Government seems to treat ‘safeguards against wrongful return to harm’ as ‘barriers to deporting people’. Their priorities are wrong. As a matter of both law and principle, the goal of our processing system must be the protection of those genuinely in need, not their expeditious removal”, said Mr Webb.

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