TPVs just the tip of the iceberg in sweeping package of regressive changes to migration laws

There is plenty of devil in the detail of the Immigration Minister’s latest reforms, introduced into Federal Parliament today.

Human Rights Law Centre Director of Legal Advocacy, Daniel Webb, said as well as reintroducing Temporary Protection Visas, the ‘Migration and Maritime Powers Bill’ also impacts on operations at sea, children of maritime arrivals born in Australia and the processing of the 30,000 asylum seekers who are part of the so-called “legacy caseload”.

“The Minister has trumpeted the TPV issue. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Lurking beneath the surface, today’s Bill contains a suite of appalling reforms which impact on the way asylum seekers will be treated both here and at sea,”,said Mr Webb.

Actions at sea

The Bill seeks to amend the Maritime Powers Act to effectively say that nothing the Government does under that Act is invalid just because it violates international law or is in breach of natural justice principles. These amendments would have significant implications for boat interceptions and turn-backs.

“The Government is trying to give itself the power to do whatever it wants at sea. It’s seeking to ensure it is completely unconstrained by international law and basic principles of justice and fairness”, said Mr Webb.

“The Immigration Minister and Prime Minister have repeatedly assured the Australian people that everything they do at sea is consistent with international law. But if they truly believed they were complying with international law they wouldn’t be trying to give themselves a license to breach it,” said Mr Webb.

Children of boat arrivals

With retrospective effect, the Bill would also classify the children of boat arrivals who are born in Australia as “Unauthorised Maritime Arrivals”.

“These children were born right here in Australian hospitals, yet the Bill seeks to classify them as unauthorised maritime arrivals and leave them liable to transfer offshore. Not only is that cruel, it’s patently absurd,” said Mr Webb.

“If these changes go ahead, some babies born in this country will be subject to mandatory detention and mandatory removal to Nauru as soon as possible,” Mr Webb explained.

Processing of claims

The Bill introduces “rapid processing” and “streamlined review arrangements” for asylum seekers coming by boat, who will be denied the right to appeal to the Refugee Review Tribunal.

“Assessing a refugee claim can quite literally be a life or death decision. Abolishing proper appeal rights and rushing people through a heavily abbreviated process increases the risk getting it wrong,” said Mr Webb.

For further details or comments, please call Daniel Webb on 0437 278 961