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Kaldor Centre Director Scientia Professor Jane McAdam and Kaldor Centre Research Associate Madeline Gleeson, along with Professor Ben Saul from Sydney Law School and Professor Michelle Foster from the University of Melbourne, made a submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee Inquiry into Migration Legislation Amendment (Regional Processing Cohort) Bill 2016 [Provisions].  The submission focuses on the international law dimensions of the Bill, although it does also comment briefly on some of the other aspects of the Bill.

The Bill proposes to ban permanently from Australia any person who entered Australia as an unauthorised maritime arrival after 19 July 2013, was transferred to the Republic of Nauru (Nauru) or Papua New Guinea (PNG) for ‘regional processing’, and was at least 18 years of age at the time of their first (or only) transfer. Such people were forcibly transferred to Nauru or PNG against their will, detained indefinitely, and subjected to serious human rights violations as a result of their transfer.

The Bill would apply to asylum seekers and refugees who are currently in Nauru or PNG, and others who were transferred to those countries after July 2013 but are now in Australia – either in detention or living in the Australian community.

The authors agree with the view articulated by many critics that the Bill is harsh, excessive and would prevent refugees resettled in other countries from ever visiting Australia – even for business, tourism or to visit friends or family. It would require the deportation of people currently living in the community in Australia, without making any provision for where they might go or what safeguards would be in place to ensure they were not sent somewhere they could face a risk of persecution or other serious harm.

We strongly disagree with the government’s claims that the Bill is compatible with Australia’s international human rights obligations, and recommend that the Bill should not be passed. In summary, it is our assessment that the Bill would:

  • undermine basic principles of international human rights and refugee law (including the right to seek asylum);
  • unlawfully discriminate against and punish refugees for entering Australia by boat, in direct contravention of Article 31(1) of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (Refugee Convention) and its 1967 Protocol;
  • unlawfully deny refugees their right to reunite with close family members, and interfere with the rights of refugee children; and
  • undermine efforts to build regional cooperation on refugee protection based on fair and genuine responsibility-sharing with Australia’s neighbours in the Asia-Pacific.

Read the full submission. 

The Kaldor Centre plays a vital role in developing legal, sustainable and humane solutions for displaced people around the world.