How to Fail at Human Rights: Australia Excuses itself from Refugee Law

New Australian law will send asylum seekers to Nauru or Manus…. Who will weep for these people?… not the Prime Minister.  The Australian Government can now send all asylum seekers who arrive by boat to offshore processing centres with the excising of the Australian mainland from the migration zone.

The migration zone, simply put, is the geographical boundary within which an incoming asylum-seeker can legally lodge an appeal for asylum. Under normal circumstances, an asylum-seeker can set foot anywhere on Australian sovereign territory and, from that point, appeal to the government to recognize his or her claim for refugee status under the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees to which Australia is a signatory. 
In excising all its territory from the migration zone, Australia has, in essence, ceased to legally exist from the perspective of a would-be asylum-seeker.  This move ensures that Australia now has full legal right to deport anybody found arriving in Australia without a visa to one of its offshore processing facilities on Christmas Island or Manus Island (the latter in Papua New Guinea). While in these processing facilities- which even the government labels ‘detention centres’- inmates are outside the Australian legal system. They cannot get representation from a lawyer. Do not have any right to appeal. The Australian government can manage them any way it sees fit.

Apart from some rather feeble protests from the Green’s in the Senate at the time of the bill being rushed through with ‘bipartisan support’, the protests against this latest policy seems to have been rather muted. According to Bishop Gerard Hanna, Australian Catholic Bishops Delegate for Migrants and Refugees, “It is tragic to think our response is to bypass their legal protections under the refugee convention and send them to remote indefinite mandatory detention on Manus Island or Nauru”  Rosemary Hudson Miller, acting national director of UnitingJustice, said that the move shows the Government is neglecting their promise to enact more compassionate policies for asylum seekers. “This is a sickening move in policy, showing that the moral compass of the Government has lost its way”

For many Christians the solution to asylum seekers is simple – welcome them and help them get on with their lives.  At time when both major parties seem intent of playing politics with asylum seekers – Christians should be encouraged to stand up for what their Universal belief is all about : inclusivity, compassion; care for the poor and marginalised.  The solution also has a three word catch phrase – ‘love your neighbour’ or for those who are worried about national security – ‘Love your enemy’!

Nigel Hayward
Project Officer
Catholic Social Justice Council

Updated: May 22, 2013 — 4:50 am
Justice, Ecology and Development Office © 2014 Frontier Theme