Expert Panel’s suggested deterrents for asylum seekers breach international human rights law

Several of the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers’ recommendations violate Australia’s international law obligations and, if adopted, would ravage Australia’s claim to human rights compliance and good international citizenship, the Human Rights Law Centre’s Rachel Ball said. “The Expert Panel promised to deliver an integrated policy package that adhered to Australia’s international obligations. Regrettably, many of the recommendations fail this test and are incompatible with Australia’s obligations under international human rights law,” Ms Ball said.

Ms Ball said that a number of recommendations that seek to encourage safe migration should be accepted and implemented.

“The Panel’s recommendation that Australia substantially increase its humanitarian intake, thereby providing protection to a greater number of vulnerable people who may otherwise come to Australia by boat, deserves strong bi-partisan support,” Ms Ball said.

The Human Rights Law Centre also welcomed recommendations to increase regional cooperation on refugee and asylum seeker issues.

“Such recommendations are consistent with the Panel’s brief of preventing asylum seekers from risking their lives at sea in a way that is compatible with our international obligations,” Ms Ball said.

“In contrast, the recommendations aimed at creating disincentives to people seeking asylum by boat are likely to be expensive and ineffective and are manifestly incompatible with Australia’s international human rights law obligations,” Ms Ball said.

The Human Rights Law Centre is very concerned that the Panel’s recommendations do not reflect the substantial, evidence-based recommendations or advice made by over 50 human rights and refugee experts to the inquiry.

“Policies such as off-shore processing, the Malaysia solution, withdrawing family reunion rights and boat turn-backs are cruel responses to the desperation of asylum seekers who make the boat journey to Australia.

“The human rights that are at risk under such arrangements include the obligation not to return a person to a territory where they would face a violation of their human rights; freedom from prolonged and arbitrary detention; the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health and the rights of the child.

“It is complete nonsense to maintain that such policies are for the benefit of asylum seekers who would come to Australia by boat. These policies are also unnecessary given that the greatest disincentive to making the boat journey to Australia – the risk of death at sea – already exists,” Ms Ball said.

The HRLC’s submission to the Expert Panel inquiry can be found online at: