Skip to main content

Australia’s obligation to people seeking asylum who are intercepted at sea

Asylum Seekers and Refugees

The Australian Human Rights Commission does not have accurate information about an asylum seeker boat that was reportedly intercepted off Christmas Island last week. Nonetheless, the Commission reiterates the fundamental human right enshrined in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights to seek and enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.

It is indisputable that the right to seek and enjoy asylum applies to people regardless of their mode of arrival. 

The Commission notes that it would be a flagrant violation of international human rights and refugee law to return asylum seekers to their country of origin without conducting a fair and robust assessment of their claims. The Australian Government must act consistently with the principle of non-refoulement by ensuring protection for asylum seekers from removal to a country where they face a real risk of significant harm

The Commission urges the Australian government to ensure that asylum seekers who are intercepted at sea are transferred to the Australian mainland and provided with the following:

  • Information regarding their right to seek asylum
  • Information regarding their right to seek legal assistance
  • Contact details for Legal Aid and community legal centres
  • Contact details for independent monitoring bodies including the Australian Human Rights Commission, the Commonwealth Ombudsman and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
  • Access to interpreters, communication facilities and interview rooms to allow them to make effective and private contact with independent monitoring bodies and/or legal advisers, as well as, information about their ability to access these facilities.