UN Committee against Torture condemns proposed changes to Migration Act

December 1, 2014

The UN Committee against Torture has found Australia’s policy of intercepting and turning back boats is done without consideration of the country’s obligations under article 3 of the UN Convention against Torture.

The Committee said the Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload) Bill 2014 puts Australia at grave risk of non-compliance with its Convention obligations. The Convention prohibits States from returning or ‘refouling’ anyone to a place ‘where there are substantial grounds for believing they would be in danger of being subjected to torture’.

Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR), which provided a written submission to the Committee, supports the findings.

ALHR’s Refugee and Asylum Seekers Spokesperson, Claire Hammerton, said of the report, “The Committee against Torture has confirmed that Australia’s policy of turning back boats with scant on-sea individual assessments is placing Australia at risk of breaching its international obligations not to return people to torture. ALHR believes that Australia’s compliance with international human rights standards in its treatment of asylum seekers is worsening and the Committee’s latest report unfortunately bears that out.”

On Friday the Committee published its report on Australia’s compliance with the Convention, citing the Australian Government’s policies on asylum seekers as its greatest concern. The release of the report follows two days of hearings with Australian Government delegates earlier this month, in which the Committee made persistent inquiries and criticisms of Australia’s approach to asylum seekers.

Media Contact: Claire Hammerton, ALHR Refugee and Asylum Seeker Spokesperson
M: 0422 168 797 E: refugees@alhr.org.au

141201 ALHR Media Release – CAT Report