Inquiry into the Migration Legislation Amendment (Regional Processing Cohort) Bill 2019

September 27, 2019

ALHR made a submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee regarding concerns with the provisions of the Migration Legislation Amendment (Regional Processing Cohort) Bill 2019. Our submission reiterates the concerns raised in ALHR’s 2016 submission to the Committee’s inquiry in relation to the Migration Legislation Amendment (Regional Processing Cohort) Bill 2016.

ALHR strongly opposes the fresh attempt at passing these measures and submitted that the Bill should not be passed and should be withdrawn. 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.

The Bill seeks to amend the Migration Act 1958 (Cth) (Migration Act) and the Migration Regulations 1994 (Cth) (Migration Regulations) to prevent ‘unauthorised maritime arrivals’ and ‘transitory persons’ who were taken to a regional processing country after 19 July 2013 and who were at least 18 years of age (the ‘designated regional processing cohort’) from making a valid application for an Australian visa.

The Migration Act already contains extensive powers and safeguards to ensure that visas of any kind are obtained legitimate and genuine reasons without the additional provisions of this Bill. ALHR also considers there is insufficient evidence to support the necessity of banning people who have ultimately obtained permanent protection elsewhere. Given the serious consequences which a lifetime ban could have for individuals and their families, it is incumbent upon the Government to provide evidence and justification as to why the proposed measures are a necessary and proportionate response to the identified objective of the Bill.

However, ALHR has serious concerns about the human rights implications of the Bill, in particular that it violates:

(a) international refugee law; and

(b) rights of family and children.

ALHR considers that Australia owes human rights obligations to people subject to offshore processing because of Australia’s effective control of this group of people.

Existing migration law provides that a person who has had their visa cancelled in Australia on character grounds, and has been removed from Australia, can be permanently excluded from re-entering Australia. By contrast, the refugees to whom the proposed legislation applies have not committed any crime. It is not a crime to seek asylum under international law. The proposed legislation unfairly categorises genuine refugees as ‘criminals’. On the contrary, refugees have made and continue to make a significant contribution to Australia’s economic, social and cultural wellbeing.

The measures proposed by the Bill are incompatible with Australia’s obligations under international human rights and refugee law. Further, the Bill is unnecessary, undermines efforts to build genuine regional and international cooperation on refugee protection, and is a radical departure from current law and policy.

You can read ALHR’s submission in full here