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Australian Government’s lifetime ban proposal is callous

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL

PRESS RELEASE

31 October 2016

Australian Government’s lifetime ban proposal callous and cruel

The Australian Government continues to punish and discriminate against people seeking asylum for the way they travel to Australia, with its proposed lifetime ban on people entering the country if they arrive by boat.

In an announcement yesterday Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said that the Government would seek to rush through new laws that would prevent anyone who attempted to arrive in Australia by boat since 19 July, 2013, from ever setting foot in Australia.

“This is yet another layer of cruelty in Australia’s already deliberately abusive policy, and only causes further suffering to people who simply are looking for a safe place to rebuild their lives,” said Ming Yu Hah, Refugee Campaigner at Amnesty International Australia.

“The Government has falsely presented this new legislation as necessary to close off ‘backdoor’ entry to Australia before third country resettlement offers for some of the 2,000 people on Nauru and Manus Island are accepted by the Australian Government.”

Amnesty International is deeply concerned about what the proposed laws would mean for both those who do not receive offers from third countries for settlement and for families who are currently separated due to Australia’s abusive system.

“If the law is passed then this may mean that if some people are settled to a safe country, there may still be hundreds of men, women and children left to languish indefinitely on Nauru and Manus Island,” said Ming Yu Hah.

“Not only is the Government proposing to rush through such outrageous and unnecessary laws, they are discriminating against people seeking safety based on their mode of arrival, which is in clear breach of Australia’s obligations under international law.

“Instead of blatantly disregarding the Australian Government’s responsibility to provide safety and protection for people who need it, the quickest and fairest way to look after the 2000 men, women and children on Nauru and Manus Island is to bring them to Australia now to process their asylum claims and welcome refugees into our community. This is a short-term punitive measure, when what is needed is for the Government to commit adequate resources to an effective, human rights-based regional approach.”

Amnesty International is calling on the Australian Government to immediately invest in alternative solutions that both protect the human rights of people seeking asylum and prevent avoidable deaths – twin goals which should be the bedrock of any asylum seeker policy.

“There are humane solutions – that both reduce deaths at sea and eliminate abuse. One shouldn’t come at the expense of the other,” said Ming Yu Hah.

Humane alternatives exist which are based on the reality that unless there are safe, legal and timely ways to seek asylum, people in fear of their lives will be forced to seek out irregular migration routes. These policy options include developing cooperation arrangements with other countries in the Asia-Pacific region, expanding safe and legal pathways for those seeking asylum, and improving search and rescue capability.

“Instead of banning people from ever setting foot in Australia, even when they have been recognised as genuine refugees, what the Government should be looking at is the valuable skills and qualifications of many refugees and include them when allocating student, work and family reunion visas,” said Ming Yu Hah.

ENDS/

********

On 17 October Amnesty International released a new report: Island of Despair: Australia’s “processing” of people on Nauru.

Article 31 of the 1951 Refugee Convention, to which Australia is a party, clearly states that countries are prohibited from imposing penalties based on people’s mode of arrival.


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