Churches Call for Debate On Private Members Bill
2 September 2014 at 11:39 am
The Australian Churches’ Refugee Taskforce is calling on Parliament to debate a Private Member's Bill tabled by Tasmanian Independent Andrew Wilkie to protect procedural fairness for asylum seekers who are being held in indefinite detention.
The Taskforce says the House Selection Committee must list for debate the Bill tabled by Andrew Wilkie called the ASIO Act Amendment (Restoring Merits Review) Bill 2014.
Vice-Chair of the Taskforce, Sister Suzette Clark said that the Bill aims to reintroduce some procedural fairness to those asylum seekers who are being held in indefinite detention.
“These people have been assessed as refugees but are being held in jail-like conditions in Villawood and Broadmeadows detention centres because ASIO has given them an adverse security assessment.
“At present, there are 42 men and 2 women who are in this distressing situation, and some of them are facing their 6th year of indefinite detention. It is shocking!”
Sister Suzette called on all Members of the House of Representatives to ensure that the Bill is debated.
“Our elected representatives must realise that these particular refugees are not only being locked up without a key, but are also not allowed to know on what basis they have been locked up. This is undemocratic and inhumane”.
Andrew Wilkie introduced his Bill into Parliament on Monday saying it would restore a merits review through the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for asylum seekers who have adverse ASIO security assessments.
“The Bill is fundamentally about fairness,” Wilkie said. “Currently asylum seekers are denied access to merits review by the AAT if they are the subject of an adverse security assessment.
“ASIO must be allowed to determine security risks, but to deprive asylum seekers of the right to have those assessments scrutinised is just part of the litany of attacks by this Government that target asylum seekers with punitive and cruel measures.
“The bottom line is that Australian citizens can challenge adverse ASIO security assessments but asylum seekers cannot. This is a clear statement by the Government that asylum seekers are second class human beings who don’t deserve their fundamental human rights.
“Moreover, besides being plain wrong, it’s also at odds with Australia’s obligations under international law. Under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as the Refugee Convention, refugees should be afforded the right to question their detention and have it examined by an official judicial body.
“The current situation is simply discrimination. If there is a genuine security concern then the original adverse assessment will be upheld on review, and if there isn’t then innocent people are not arbitrarily detained.
“Australians have nothing to fear from this reform, and we must pass it as a compassionate and fortunate country which believes in equality before the law,” Wilkie said.
The Executive Office of the Australian Churches’ Refugee Taskforce, Misha Coleman said it was clear through conversations with many members of the House of Representatives and Senate that they were not aware of the full impact of the recent Migration Amendment Bill (2013) which they passed through Parliament earlier this year.
“The Bill introduced by Andrew Wilkie is a really positive step towards ensuring that everyone is equal before the law. It’s also important to point out that this Bill doesn’t change ASIO’s powers in any way," Coleman said.
“Australian Churches are calling for justice for these 44 people being indefinitely detained. They are human beings and should be treated with dignity and compassion. The passage of Andrew Wilkie’s Bill would be one step in achieving justice.”