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Commission raises strong concerns over developments in Australia’s response to asylum seekers (2012 Media Release)

Asylum Asylum Seekers and Refugees

The Australian Human Rights Commission President, Professor Gillian Triggs has expressed serious concerns about a number of elements of the Minister’s announcements in relation to developments in Australia’s response to asylum seekers.

These include the involuntary removals of asylum seekers, the transfer of asylum seekers to Manus Island and the implementation of the ‘principle of no advantage’ in Australia.

Professor Triggs expressed concern that it is not clear whether the 426 Sri Lankan asylum seekers who have been involuntarily returned to Sri Lanka since the 13 August 2012 have had access to a robust procedure to ensure that their removal would not in fact amount to refoulement.

“Of specific concern it is not clear whether the Australian Government has facilitated any access to legal or migration advice prior to effecting their removal,” said Professor Triggs.

Professor Triggs said the Commission is also deeply concerned by the transfer of children and families to Manus Island under third country processing arrangements.

“Sending families and children to Manus Island for an indefinite period of time risks breaching a number of Australia’s human rights obligations, including the obligation under article 3 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child to treat the best interests of the child as a primary consideration in all actions concerning children.”

“States cannot avoid their international law obligations by transferring asylum seekers to a third country,” said President Triggs.

Furthermore, the ‘no advantage principle’ embraced by the Australian Government in response to the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers’ report may compound the suffering of already vulnerable people. The UNHCR has expressed serious concern about the basis of such a principle, explaining that there is no ‘average’ time for resettlement.

“The announcements today appear to further undermine the protection of the human rights of asylum seekers and refugees,” said Professor Triggs.

Media contact: Emily Barker 0419 258 597

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