Current asylum seeker policies fail to safeguard basic human rights, concludes Parliamentary Committee

Australia’s offshore processing laws do not comply with fundamental human rights principles, concluded the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights in its report tabled in Parliament yesterday.

The Committee conducted an inquiry into various aspects of the current offshore processing regime following requests from the HRLC, together with the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre and the Australian Human Rights Commission.

In its report, the Committee finds that the Government has failed to demonstrate that Australia’s current asylum seeker policies uphold fundamental human protections in key human rights treaties.

Senior Lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre, Daniel Webb, said that the Committee’s findings should dispel any doubt about the compatibility of Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers with international law.

“The findings are crystal clear - our punitive offshore processing regime violates the fundamental human rights of people, including unaccompanied children, who come here seeking protection,” said Mr Webb.

The Committee was particularly concerned by the human rights implications of the ‘no-advantage’ policy, the central pillar of the Government’s current approach to asylum seekers. 

“The no-advantage principle is rightly criticized by the Committee as being vague, ill-defined and punitive,” said Mr Webb.

The Committee also refuted persistent claims by the Government that Australia is not responsible under international law for human rights violations experienced by asylum seekers transferred offshore.

“We welcome the Committee’s finding that Australia’s human rights obligations don’t end at our borders. We simply cannot contract out of our human rights responsibilities,” said Mr Webb.

The Committee recognised the importance of exploring all reasonable options to reduce the loss of life at sea, but concludes that the current polices unreasonably and disproportionately limit fundamental human rights.

“It is a tragedy that people die at sea when seeking asylum, but punishing survivors is not an effective, humane or lawful policy response. We must focus on working with source countries to develop safe pathways to protection for those who need to seek it,” said Mr Webb.

The Committee launched the inquiry after the Government failed to provide statements examining the human rights implications of various aspects of its reforms.

“The Committee should be congratulated for doing what the Government failed to do itself – subject important laws to rigorous human rights scrutiny,” said Mr Webb.


For further information or comments contact:
Daniel Webb, HRLC Senior Lawyer, on 0437 278 961 or