Migration Amendment ‘Stacks the Odds’ Against Vulnerable
26 March 2015 at 9:31 am
The Refugee Council of Australia claims the passing of the Migration Amendment Bill 2014 will further stack the odds against vulnerable people seeking Australia’s protection.
The Not for Profit advocacy group said the Bill makes a number of changes to Australia’s processes for assessing asylum claims, including shifting the burden of proof onto asylum seekers, requiring the Refugee Review Tribunal to draw unfavourable inferences about the credibility of refugee claims in some circumstances and creating new grounds to deny Protection Visas to people who provide false identity documents.
“This is yet another example of Australia turning its back on people fleeing persecution,” President of RCOA, Phil Glendenning said.
“The Government claims that this Bill will enhance the integrity of Australia’s processes for assessing asylum claims. However, Australia’s existing processing system already allows decision-makers to deny refugee status to people who don’t have legitimate claims.
“This Bill won’t make it easier for decision-makers to deny protection to people who don’t have genuine claims; it will make it harder for people who do have genuine claims to access the protection they deserve.
“The Bill also ignores the realities faced by people fleeing persecution. For instance, there are many entirely legitimate reasons why asylum seekers may not have correct documentation. They may have had to flee quickly and did not have time to obtain identity documents, or they may have been unable to use genuine documents for fear of being caught by their persecutors.
“Ironically, the fact that an asylum seeker has been forced to use false documents in order to escape is often a sign that they are genuinely at risk of persecution.”
“While RCOA is deeply disappointed by the passing of the Bill, we warmly welcome the removal of provisions which sought to change the criteria for assessing complementary protection claims.
Glendenning said Australia’s system of complementary protection was designed to protect people who are not refugees according to the definition in the Refugee Convention but would nonetheless be at risk of torture or other forms of serious harm if returned to their home country.
“If the Bill had passed in its original form, asylum seekers would only have been granted complementary protection if it was ‘more likely than not’ that they would be harmed upon return – that is, if they had a greater than 50 per cent chance of being harmed. This could have resulted in people who were at very real risk of serious harm being denied protection and returned to danger,” he said.
“We are very pleased that these changes did not proceed and thank the Senators who were involved in negotiating this amendment.”
The Migration Amendment (Protection and Other Measures) Bill 2014 passed through the Senate on Wednesday with amendments from the Labor Opposition and the Greens.