Government's changes to Migration Act would permanently split families and condemn thousands to limbo

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull this morning announced government plans to amend the Migration Act to permanently ban people seeking asylum in Australia by sea from ever being able to stay or from ever coming to Australia to visit loved ones. 

Daniel Webb, the Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, who recently returned from his third trip to Manus Island and represents many of the families currently in Australia for medical treatment but facing return to harm on Nauru, said that the government’s announcement will terrify those people currently in Australia rebuilding their lives. 

“These kids and their families have already been through so much. We are talking about 40 babies who were born here and who have taken their first steps and spoken their first words in our communities. We are talking about kids who have been going to Australian schools, making friends, studying hard and scoring goals for the school soccer team. We’re talking about women who have been sexualy assaulted on Nauru, who are traumatised and just starting to rebuild their lives. Turnbull’s announcement will terrify them.” 

“It might not be today. It might not be tomorrow. But Turnbull is saying to these families that one day soon he plans to uproot them and send them to a life in limbo somewhere else.” 

Mr Webb said the proposed changes would also entrench the limbo for those on Nauru and Manus and permanently separate families. 

“I was on Manus recently and met one man, Nayser Ahmed, who arrived here on a different date to his wife and kids. While his family are now rebuilding their lives in Sydney, Nayser has been stuck on Manus for the last three years. If Turnbull’s legal changes go ahead, this man may never see his kids again,” said Mr Webb. 

“Neysar just wants what every father in the world wants – to sit down at the end of the day and enjoy a meal with his kids. Whatever the policy challenge, ripping apart families isn’t the solution,” said Mr Webb. 

“It’s clear Nauru and Manus are dead ends. The government urgently needs to find a humane way forward. After three years of fear, violence and limbo, the government must bring the innocent people on Nauru and Manus to safety in Australia and allow those already in our communities to stay and continue rebuilding their lives.” 

For further comments or queries please contact:

Daniel Webb, Director of Legal Advocacy, Human Rights Law Centre, 0437 278 961