ALHR strongly opposes Migration Legislation Amendment (Regional Processing Cohort) Bill 2016

November 30, 2016

ALHR’s Refugee Rights Subcommittee has been advocating strongly against the Federal Government’s proposed permanent ban on certain refugees ever entering Australia, even on a tourist visa. Under the proposed legislation, persons who arrived in Australia by boat on or after 19 July 2013 and who were over 18 years old at the time they were taken to Nauru or Manus Island, would not be permitted to make a valid visa application to enter Australia – ever. They would not, even if they have been resettled to a third country and have acquired permanent residence or citizenship of that country, be permitted to enter Australia.

In our view, the Bill is seriously flawed. Legally, the proposed legislation breaches Australia’s international obligations and, socially, it undermines the principles of family unity, cohesion and multiculturalism that are fundamental to Australia’s identity.

Australia is a signatory to the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol which prohibit states from imposing a ‘penalty’ on asylum seekers who come directly to its territory “illegally” (i.e. by boat). This proposed legislation does exactly that: it penalises those who arrive by boat by preventing them from ever entering Australia. It would create different classes of former refugees by discriminating between those who come by boat and those who arrive by plane.

The lifetime ban on refugees also has the potential to tear families apart. Many of the recognised refugees on Manus Island and Nauru already have family residing in Australia. Denying these refugees their right to family reunification breaches Australia’s obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Given our grave concerns over the Bill ALHR has written to all cross bench senators urging them to reject the proposals. You can read a copy of our letter below.

We have also made a submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee’s Inquiry into the Migration Legislation Amendment (Regional Processing Cohort) Bill 2016 and on 15 November, Rebecca Dowd and Khanh Hoang, Co-Chairs of ALHR’s Refugee Rights Subcommittee, appeared before the Senate Committee to give oral evidence.