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2011 Media Release: Government should not revive Malaysian agreement

Asylum Asylum Seekers and Refugees

The Australian Human Rights Commission has expressed its concern at today’s announcement that the Migration Act and the Immigration (Guardianship of Children) Act will be amended to enable third-country processing of asylum seekers.

Commission President Catherine Branson QC said the Commission recognised the need for regional and international cooperation on asylum seekers but was concerned the amendments could lead to serious human rights breaches.

“The government should not seek to undermine our international obligations under the Refugee Convention by sending asylum seekers to third countries, particularly vulnerable groups such as families, unaccompanied minors and survivors of torture and trauma.”

Ms Branson said the Commission was concerned that third-country processing could breach Australia’s obligation to not return anyone to their home country if doing so would place them in danger.

“The agreement with Malaysia should not be revived. It does not provide adequate access to basic services such as health and education,” she said.

“There is also a real risk that those transferred could be seriously mistreated.”

The Commission is also concerned that the amendments could lead to unaccompanied minors being sent to third countries.

She said Australia had promised to respect the rights set out in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, including that the best interests of the child must be a primary consideration in all decisions affecting them.

“All unaccompanied minors should have a legal guardian who makes decisions in their best interests,” Ms Branson said.

“We should not be amending our laws in ways that undermine the obligation to respect the best interests of the child.

“In the vast majority of cases, it is difficult to see how transferring a child to a third country could be in their best interests.

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Media contact: Louise McDermott (02) 9284 9851 or 0419 258 597