Refugee & Asylum Seeker Rights
The Asylum Seeker and Refugee Rights Unit 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.
Just one day after condemning the Australian Government’s “chronic non-compliance” with international human rights laws, in a further hearing overnight the expert Committee honed in on the Government’s cruelty to refugees and in particular its offshore detention regime. The Human Rights Committee described the policies as “shocking” and “disturbing”.
Australian engineering firm Canstruct will be complicit in serious human rights abuses if it takes over the contract to run the Australia’s immigration detention centre on Nauru. A leaked memo from Canstruct’s CEO overnight, shows the company will take over the contract to run the Nauru centre by the end of the month, and will be paid $8 million by the Australian Government.
Overnight Australia was slammed by the UN Human Rights Committee for its “chronic non-compliance” with, and disengagement from, that Committee’s work. Australia’s record on human rights was found lacking as part of the Committee’s review into Australia’s protection of civil and political rights.
During the same week that Australia is expected to be granted a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council, an expert UN committee will grill the Australian Government over its own human rights record.
“This is the most significant UN position Australia has sought since the Security Council. Relatively speaking Australia is likely to be a positive force for reform on the Council, but if it wants to have the credibility required to be a true human rights leader it can't continue to blatantly breach international law itself. There's no doubt that it's cruel treatment of refugees will hamstring Australia's efforts on Council," said Emily Howie.
"After four years of fear, violence, suffering and death, these men deserve safety. Shunting them from one island prison to another doesn’t cut it,” said Daniel Webb.
The Rt. Hon. Joe Clark, former Prime Minister of Canada and chair of the Award jury, has announced Daniel Webb, Director of Legal Advocacy with the Human Rights Law Centre as a winner of the inaugural Global Pluralism Award for his work highlighting and promoting the rights of refugees and people seeking asylum.
Another refugee held by the Australian Government on Manus Island has been found dead. He was one of over 900 men who came to Australia seeking safety but have been held on Manus for four years. His is the ninth death in the Australian run offshore detention centres and the second on Manus Island in just two months.
After four years of fear and violence, a small handful of people finally received some good news. But this doesn't close the dark chapter in our history — not until every single man, woman and child tormented on Nauru and Manus Island is safe.
The United Nations has been asked to urgently intervene to halt the Australian Government’s moves to make refugees and people seeking asylum destitute as a means of coercing them to return to danger and harm on Nauru or Manus Island.
“It’s time to bring some compassion, common sense and basic human decency back to the way we treat people seeking asylum. Premier Andrews has shown it. Now it’s time for other leaders to do the same,” said Daniel Webb.
“These are babies who’ve taken their first steps and spoken their first words in Australia. Kids going to Australian schools. Families who have been part of our community for years. And now, out of the blue, they’ll be effectively thrown out on the streets in a cruel attempt to force them back to harm,” said Hugh de Kretser.
MEDIA ALERT - PRESS CONFERENCE
Who: Hugh de Kretser, Executive Director, Human Rights Law Centre - who represent most of the affected people, Amy Frew, Lawyer, Human Rights Law Centre, Natasha Blucher, Detention Advocacy Manager, Asylum Seeker Resource Centre
Date: Sunday 27 August 2017
Time: 11:00AM (AEST)
Location: HRLC, Level 17, 461 Bourke St, Melbourne
"The people in the Manus detention centre are tired from this kind of political games. We just want freedom and a chance to rebuild our lives," said Behrouz Boochani.
Another man held by the Australian Government on Manus Island has been found dead. It is reported that the refugee’s body was found in dense jungle on the island. He was one of over 900 men who came to Australia seeking safety but have been held on Manus for four years.
“I just cried as I was reading the transcripts of the most two powerful leaders in this world. Their words made me feel like I am just a product to them and I can be traded for anything.”
“I am just a human being and there is no need to play with my life. All I want is to respect and love others and be loved and respected in return. All I need is a sense of belonging to a safe country so that I can live a life that every human deserves.” - Imran Mohammad, a refugee held on Manus Island for almost four years.
“Turnbull was clearly more concerned with appearances than reality - totally preoccupied with maintaining the facade of the deal irrespective of whether or not anyone will actually find safety under it.”
“We are seeing a chain of attacks against refugees. The local police can’t protect us. We are being forced to live in constant fear,” said Behrouz Boochani.
Today the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, revealed that the Australian Government misled the UN while seeking its support for the controversial US refugee resettlement deal.
“All the men on Manus and the families and children on Nauru want – all they have ever wanted – is a life in safety and freedom. They’ve had four years of their life taken from them. They deserve a future.” says Daniel Webb.
News that US officials interviewing refugees on Nauru have walked out two weeks before their scheduled departure time has cast more doubt on the future of the US resettlement deal.
Behrouz Boochani, a refugee currently held on Manus Island said, "All the men here have families, and four years with no certainty for their future is already too much."
Responding to reports that France has withdrawn its candidacy for the UN Human Rights Council – meaning Australia and Spain can be elected to the world’s peak human rights body unopposed – Emily Howie, a Director of Legal Advocacy at the HRLC, said Australia has work to do in order to fulfill the duties of a Council member.
The Australian Government must evacuate every man, woman and child currently warehoused on Manus and Nauru and bring them to safety in Australia, the United Nations said overnight.
Imran Mohammad is a Rohingyan refugee whom our Government has detained for the last four years on Manus Island in PNG. “I have never experienced safety since I was born.” With your support, we have travelled to Manus three times to expose conditions inside the detention centre and to bring the voices of the men trapped inside to the world.
The Australian government must immediately evacuate every person warehoused on Nauru and Manus to safety if it wants to be taken seriously as a human rights leader, the Human Rights Law Centre told the United Nations Human Rights Council in a statement delivered overnight.
The Australian Government today confirmed it would pay $70 million to almost 2000 men, many of whom it has warehoused on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea for nearly 4 years.
The Department of Immigration revealed in Budget Estimates that it plans to expand bed capacity at the East Lorengau Refugee Transit Centre to house up to 440 men on Manus when it closes the detention centre in October.
"It’s not good enough to just leave innocent people trapped in limbo in unsafe conditions forever. Every single one of these men deserves the chance to finally start rebuilding their lives in safety," Daniel Webb said.
“For the last four years we’ve seen report after report - horror story after horror story - detailing the harm people are suffering inside the camp and the serious dangers they face when they venture outside it. How much more evidence do we need?” said Daniel Webb.
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.
Our Prime Minister, Immigration Minister and Foreign Minister have spent this week in New York attending high-profile global summits on refugees. They arrived insisting that the Australian government's policies were the "best in the world", but they'll leave having offered little more than self-congratulations.
The PNG government has conceded that the Manus facility must close. But while tearing down the fences would be a significant step, the real issue is not the future of the facility itself but of the 854 men trapped inside it.
Australia’s offshore camps are a house of cards. They’re unsustainable and liable to collapse amid increasing corporate aversion to complicity in abuse, legal uncertainty and human despair.
Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull's announcement of a royal commission into the abuse of children in Northern Territory jails gives an insight into his instincts on human rights.
Every day that the Manus Island and Nauru camps stay open, people suffer. Every day that Ferrovial operates those centres, it is exposed to risk, writes the HRLC's Rachel Ball.
The PNG Supreme Court's unanimous ruling highlights the harmfulness of Australia's treatment of asylum seekers in the Manus Island detention centre.