Submission details ‘serious concerns’ in citizenship legislation

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Proposed changes to Australia’s citizenship laws would bear harshly on refugees and dramatically increase the powers of the Minister, according to a Senate submission by members of the Andrew & Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law and the Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law at UNSW Law raising “serious concerns” about the legislation.

The Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee is reviewing the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Strengthening the Requirements for Australian Citizenship and Other Measures) Bill 2017.

Broadly, the Bill does two things,” the submission says. “First, it alters the requirements for acquiring Australian citizenship in a way that makes citizenship more difficult to obtain for some people. Secondly, it significantly expands the discretionary powers of the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection and reduces their accountability.

The new requirements would have a disproportionately harsh effect on refugees and humanitarian entrants, who are some of the most vulnerable members of society. “No clear case has been made for why the measures proposed are the best way in which to serve the end goal of ensuring that those who acquire Australian citizenship are allegiant to Australia and committed to making a positive contribution to Australian society,” the submission says.

“The proposed changes to executive power vest significant new personal powers in the Minister for Immigration while eroding independent checks and balances. This creates both a perception and a real risk of arbitrary decision-making and, once again, the precise need that the proposed changes would serve has not been clearly articulated.

“Without stronger justification, we fear that the changes proposed will not serve the goal of fostering cohesion and integration amongst the Australian population, and are, in fact, likely to have the opposite effect.”

You can read the full submission here.