What are the changes?

Yesterday, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced a proposal to amend the Migration Act 1958 (Cth) to impose a lifetime ban for people who arrived in Australia by boat after 19 July 2013 and were taken to a regional processing centre, from ever  resettling in or travelling to Australia in the future. This includes people found to be refugees, people currently detained on Nauru and in Papua New Guinea, people who are temporarily in Australia for medical treatment, and includes those who accepted a transfer to Cambodia. The proposed plan does not include children who were under the age of 18 when they were taken to Nauru or Manus Island.

It is RACS’ view that this proposed legislative change is unnecessary and punitive.

A legislative bar already exists in the Migration Act 1958 (Cth) which the Minister can use to determine, for example, who can make an application for protection in Australia. RACS believes the main impact of this proposal will only be to further punish people in detention in Nauru and Manus Island seeking Australia’s protection rather than people smugglers or help prevent deaths at sea.

Who will it affect?

This law, should it come into effect, will effectively prevent families from ever living together again, which breaches fundamental human rights law prohibiting the forced separation of children from their parents, like Nayser Ahmad, a refugee from a Rohingyan background, whose immediate family is currently in Australia.

Why do we oppose the change?

Sarah Dale, Acting Principal Solicitor says: “This proposal is not only punitive, it is fundamentally at odds with international human rights law and our treaty obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention.”

“Australia should work to promote and enhance human rights and not encourage further breaches of people’s right to seek asylum and their right to enjoy the company of their family unit.  We potentially prevent future World leaders, journalists, doctors and professionals from visiting Australia, based on their needing protection as young adults 3 years ago. We encourage the Government, the opposition and all independent parliamentarians to end the policy of offshore detention and bring these people here to Australia for processing and resettlement. Denying people the right to reunite with their families into the future goes well beyond the deterrence of boats arriving in Australia.”

31 October 2016