Human rights lawyers slam Federal Government’s Migration Bill as ‘Cruel and Unnecessary’

February 7, 2023

Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) is deeply concerned about the Albanese Government’s attempts to advance the Migration Amendment (Aggregate Sentences) Bill 2023 in the Senate.

 Caitlin Caldwell, ALHR Chair of Refugee Rights said, “The Bill would make aggregate criminal sentences (a single sentence imposed for two or more changes within a case) a legal basis for the mandatory cancellation of visas, including protection visas. Of particular concern is the fact that the Bill would operate retrospectively.”

 “The proposed measures follow the December 2022 decision in Pearson v Minister for Home Affairs [2022] FCAFC 203, where the Full Court of the Federal Court of Australia ruled that mandatory visa cancellations on the basis of aggregate criminal sentences totalling 12 months imprisonment, or more were unlawful. The ruling correctly observed that aggregate sentences are often made up of a series of minor offending, while mandatory visa cancellations should be reserved for criminal offending of the most serious nature.”

“The Minister has not yet appealed this decision.”

 “Importantly, The Full Court also observed that the Minister’s vast powers under Australia’s visa cancellation framework nonetheless provided for cancellation on the basis of aggregate sentences under other discretionary cancellation provisions.”

 Ms Caldwell continued, “In short, this Bill is a redundant and heinous attempt by the Labor Government to expand its already significant visa cancellation powers. The Bill, if passed, will have the immediate, devastating effect of subjecting many recently-released individuals to re-detention, many of whom have been recognised as refugees in Australia and who have already endured protracted immigration detention.  

 Hannah Dickinson, Chair of the Visa Cancellations Working Group, has stated that the Bill “is both cruel and unnecessary… re-cancellations are already occurring. Cancellation powers are extraordinarily broad. To make this Bill retrospective is particularly abhorrent, and will lead to mass re-detention.”

 ALHR calls on the Federal Government to abandon the Bill.

Contact: Matt Mitchell, ALHR media manager 0431 980 365.