Refugee & Asylum Seeker Rights
The Asylum Seeker and Refugee Rights Impact Area was established in January 2015. Our vision is that Australia treats all people seeking asylum with decency and respect for their basic human rights while working constructively towards a safe, humane and orderly approach to forced displacement.
We work to achieve lasting systemic change and to mitigate the worst aspects of the current system in the interim. We do this by focussing on:
- Action beyond our borders - We target government and corporate action on Nauru and Manus Island and on the high seas - the sites of least transparency and greatest injustice;
- The worst excesses onshore - We also challenge the most acute human rights abuses onshore - arbitrary detention, secrecy, regressive legal changes and abuses in detention; and
- Advocating for humane policy alternatives - We are a principled and credible voice for a more humane, lawful and constructive policy approach. Our public advocacy helps establish the preconditions for lasting change.
Last night, in a damning attack on the Australian Government’s offshore refugee camp on Nauru, the Former President of Nauru, Sprent Dabwido, said the agreement with Australia was a mistake, describing it as a ‘deal with the devil.’ Mr Dabwido likened the policy, under which the Australian Government has indefinitely detained refugees on the tiny island nation for up to six years, to ‘torture.’
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, used her address to the 40th session of the UN Human Rights Council to highlight some of the world’s worst human rights abuses and called out the Australian Government’s treatment of refugees and people seeking asylum.
Abdul Aziz Muhamat, a refugee and human rights defender, who has spent nearly six years detained by the Australian Government on Manus Island, overnight addressed the UN Human Rights Council to highlight the Morrison Government’s inhumane treatment of people seeking asylum.
Key national organisations have banded together to oversee and ensure the timely and orderly assessment of applications for medical transfers under the “Medevac Bill” by creating the Medical Evacuation Response Group (Medevac Group).
The inquest into the death of 23-year-old refugee Omid Masoumali on Nauru will commence in the Coroners Court of Queensland in Brisbane on Monday 25 February.
Abdul Aziz Muhamat, a refugee and human rights defender, who has spent nearly six years detained by the Australian Government on Manus Island, was overnight awarded the prestigious Martin Ennals Award.
Refugee and human rights organisations rejoiced today as the House of Representatives overturned 90 years of tradition and a toxic debate to vote authoritatively to deliver medical care to the refugees who have spent almost six years detained offshore.
Amid delays to evacuations and more court proceedings on behalf of sick refugees, lawyers have called on the Federal Government to allow desperately needed reform to the offshore medical transfer process.
Since joining the Human Rights Law Centre, Daniel Webb has tirelessly fought for the rights of refugees and people seeking asylum. Now, after seven years, he is taking a year-long break from his role to work on government transparency and anti-corruption initiatives in the Pacific region with Transparency International.
A Government proposal to address the medical crisis engulfing critically ill refugees detained offshore has been firmly rejected as window dressing on the existing unconscionable process which has seen 12 people die in offshore detention in the past five years.
Lawyers, doctors and caseworkers welcomed the news that all of the critically sick children detained by the Australian government on Nauru were now receiving the medical care they need in Australia and the remaining children would be resettled in the US.
At the same time as children and their families are being medically evacuated from Nauru, it’s been reported today that Canstruct, a Queensland company, is set to make in the order of $150 million in earnings from the Australian Government for running the Nauru detention centre.
The Australia Government is today challenging the Federal Court’s power to order urgent medical evacuations of acutely unwell men, women and children from Manus and Nauru.
Despite reports today that all children and their families will finally be evacuated from Nauru and amidst mounting public pressure to end offshore detention, it’s also been reported that Canstruct has had its contract to run the Nauru detention centre renewed.
The Human Rights Law Centre has submitted a report to the United Nations Child Rights Committee showing that Australian governments are failing to protect the rights of vulnerable children. Australia is due to front the Child Rights Committee in Geneva in February, where the Government’s compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child will be measured. The HRLC’s report, ‘Justice for Children’, will inform the assessment of Australia.
The Human Rights Law Centre cautiously welcomed reports today that all children and their families will finally be evacuated from Nauru but warned that the evacuations must happen immediately.
Legal experts and human rights advocates today condemned Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s refusal to resolve the urgent medical emergency for children on Nauru when he ruled out negotiating with Labor and the crossbench.
63 mothers, fathers and children permanently separated between Australia and indefinite offshore detention on Manus and Nauru have taken their case for family reunion to the United Nations Human Rights Committee.
The Australian Government should immediately end its engagement with Myanmar’s military and impose sanctions on abusive military generals, the Human Rights Law Centre and the Australian Council for International Development said in a joint statement at the UN Human Rights Council overnight.
“As the Australian Government sits here on this Council, professing its commitment to human rights, it is indefinitely imprisoning 102 children in its offshore refugee camp on Nauru,” Daniel Webb told the UN Human Rights Council.
The Australian Government should not be allowed to pick and choose what detention facilities can be scrutinised under the UN anti-torture treaty, the Human Rights Law Centre said in a submission to the Human Rights Commission.
The new United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, has used her maiden speech at the UN Human Rights Council to condemn the Australian Government’s indefinite offshore detention regime.
“The Australian government’s refugee policies have been internationally condemned as putting lives at risk. Businesses, including airlines, that actively facilitate and profit from this system are complicit in abuse and risk exposing themselves to serious reputational liability.”
The Queensland Coroner has found that the death of Hamid Khazaei, a 24 year old man indefinitely detained by the Australian Government on Manus Island, was “preventable” and that if he was evacuated to Australia for medical treatment sooner he would have survived.
The Australian Government has been urged to improve its track record on women’s rights overnight by an expert UN Committee on women’s rights.
The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women made its criticism after a robust review earlier this month to assess Australia’s progress on ending discrimination against women.
Thursday 19 July will mark five years of limbo and suffering for over 1650 men, women and children indefinitely imprisoned in the Turnbull Government’s refugee camps on Manus Island and Nauru.
Following the UN Human Rights Chief’s condemnation of Donald Trump’s brutality to children at the US border, the Turnbull Government’s indefinite detention of 134 refugee children has been called out at the UN Human Rights Council overnight.
The Turnbull Government’s second session as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, the UN body responsible for protecting the rights and dignity of people all over the world, will begin in Geneva tomorrow.
He has been denied his liberty, denied his personal security and denied his most fundamental of human rights. But he has defiantly refused to be denied his voice. We were honoured to have Behrouz Boochani deliver our Sydney Human Rights Dinner keynote address from Manus Island.
The Australian Government has joined 44 other nations in delivering a scathing statement to the United Nations Human Rights Council overnight on the rapid deterioration of Cambodia’s human rights situation, expressing "deep concern about the recent serious decline of civil and political rights in Cambodia".
The medical and humanitarian crisis in Australia’s offshore detention camps in Nauru and Manus Island keeps escalating, with the bearers of our government’s harsh policies being the bodies of the people who have been held captive for nearly six years.
The government keeps playing politics with innocent people’s lives but the public mood has shifted. After almost six years of unmitigated cruelty to innocent people, Australia is finally rediscovering its moral compass. There’s a palpable sense that this has all gone too far, for too long.
We need a game changer - It’s time to put power into the hands of the people, to give us the tools to hold our governments to account, writes Lee Carnie.
Over the past five years we have seen children on Nauru go from being playful and curious little kids to listless, voiceless, hopeless bodies on a mattress, unable to eat or speak. We’ve seen their spirits slowly dissolve and the brightness slowly fade from their eyes.
It’s 2018 and women’s voices are still ridiculed, disregarded, dismissed and put down. But there’s no doubting that our voices are out there, loud and clear and they are increasingly more difficult to ignore. Our voices are out there and this is a good thing. But not all women’s voices are heard.
For me and millions of other mums around Australia, today will be a special day. I'll wake to some slightly burnt toast, some slightly cold tea, a jar of jam from the school stall and probably a couple of earnest home-made Mother's Day cards, delivered to me in bed with a smile from my two beautiful boys.
Men are dying, women have been sexually assaulted and children traumatised on Manus and Nauru. This can’t continue writes Daniel Webb.
If we’ve learnt anything from the #LetThemStay campaign. If we’ve learnt anything from Baby Asha and the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital. If we’ve learnt anything from the church sanctuary movement, it’s this: on this issue, we can’t sit back and hope for leadership from our politicians. It’s you who must lead them.
Trump is set to sign executive orders imposing a freeze on all refugee resettlement – those detained offshore should be brought to safety in Australia.
Malcolm Turnbull’s proposed lifetime visa ban is a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist and an attempt to distract us from one that does.
The proposal is absurd, the wedge politics cynical and the explanations insincere. Sadly, the fear and harm being caused is real.