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Migration Act amendments undermine Australia’s international law obligations (2012 Media Release)

Asylum Asylum Seekers and Refugees

The proposed amendments to the Migration Act requiring that asylum seekers who arrive anywhere in Australia by boat be taken to a regional processing country undermine Australia’s obligations under the Refugees Convention and other human rights treaties.

The Australian Human Rights Commission President, Professor Gillian Triggs says this legislation discriminates against some of the most vulnerable people in our region, based on the way in which they arrive in Australia.

“Australia is obliged to implement the Refugees Convention in good faith. The proposed amendments to the Migration Act undermine the Refugees Convention because they penalise asylum seekers who arrive in Australia by boat,” said President Triggs.

Professor Triggs said the Commission is concerned that transferring asylum seekers to a third country will lead to breaches of their human rights, including the right to be free from arbitrary detention and the rights of children to have their best interests considered in all actions concerning them, to be detained only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time and for asylum seeker children to receive appropriate protection and assistance.

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

“Effectively all boat arrivals are already potentially liable to third country processing. However, preventing all maritime arrivals from having their protection claims assessed in Australia sends a message that Australia is not prepared to meet its human rights obligations to asylum seekers,” said President Triggs.

The Commission also holds serious concerns about the more than 5000 people potentially liable for transfer to a third country currently in detention in Australia.

“These people, including children, are currently indefinitely detained and face what is in effect a suspension of the processing of their claims for protection. The Australian Government should release these people from detention and process their claims for asylum as soon as possible,” said Professor Triggs.

Media contact: Emily Barker (02) 9284 9851 or 0419 258 597

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