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Aust body calls on Govt, protect of asylum seekers

Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission calls on government to ensure protection of asylum seekers on World Refugee Day

On 20 June 2006, World Refugee Day, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) calls on the government not to pass legislation which threatens the rights of asylum-seekers and refugees.

Human Rights Commissioner Graeme Innes said the Commission held significant concerns about the passage of the Migration Amendment (Designated Unauthorised Arrivals) Bill.
“The Human Rights Commission is just one of the many organisations that has drawn human rights concerns about the Bill to the attention of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee, which recently recommended the Bill not pass,” he said.

“It is a testament to the quality of Australia’s refugee protection groups that the Senate Committee was so powerfully persuaded by the human rights arguments relating to the legislation. I commend the large number of refugee organisations in Australia who have worked to focus the Federal Government’s attention on the rights of asylum seekers.
I am sure they, as well as the Commission, would be dismayed to see this legislation pass on a day that is supposed to recognise the plight of refugees worldwide.”

“Passing the Bill in its current form would mark a backward step in Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers,” said Mr Innes. “The Bill will result in a breach of Australia’s obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and undermine Australia’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”

By failing to ensure independent merits review, the Bill may also result in breaches of the Refugee Convention.

“As the tragic case of Cornelia Rau indicates, mistakes do happen. A wrong decision about a person’s refugee status can mean that they are returned to persecution in their home country and if this occurs Australia will be breaching its obligations under the Refugee Convention,” said Mr Innes. “It is vital that there be independent merits review in order to reduce the risk of wrong decisions or, to use the language of the Refugee Convention, to reduce the risk of refoulement.”

HREOC’s opening statement and written submission to the Senate Committee can be found at: http://www.humanrights.gov.au/legal/submissions/index.html

HREOC investigated the impact of immigration detention in its National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention. The report – A last resort? – was tabled in Parliament in May 2004 (see http://www.humanrights.gov.au/human_rights/children_detention_report/)

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