Govt Set to Stop Boat Refugees Ever Returning to Australia
30 October 2016 at 10:54 am
The federal government says it will introduce a law ensuring that genuine refugees who have arrived in Australia by boat via smuggling syndicates will never be allowed to enter Australia in the future.
However, the move is set to be vigorously fought by Australian refugee advocates, including the possibility of a high court challenge.
The prime minister and the immigration minister, Peter Dutton, announced the full details Sunday, saying they wanted to send a very strong message to the criminal people smuggling syndicates that we will not allow them to find an illegal pathway for people to Australia.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the bill would apply to all asylum seekers taken to a regional processing centre since 19 July 2013.
“This bill will reflect the government’s long-standing position and as we understand it, the bipartisan position initially set out you Labor,” Turnbull said.
Before the official announcement, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told ABC Insiders that those who have paid people smugglers will not be resettled in Australia.
“We are sending a strong message to those currently in Manus and Nauru, if they are found to be owed protection, they will not be resettled in Australia. If they’re not found to be owed protection, they should return home,” Bishop said.
“This is a tough message we are sending to the people smuggling syndicates and those who pay people smugglers to try and enter Australia.
When asked what the policy said about freedom of movement around the globe as a basic human right, Bishop said: “They won’t be settled in Australia and they won’t be visiting Australia. It is a tough message. We have to stop the people smuggling syndicates.
“I will never forget 1,200 people that we know of drowned at sea coming to Australia under these people smuggling networks. We cannot have situations where people are drowning at sea and that is why we are working through the case load, the cohort of people who are on Manus and Nauru, to find third country resettlements for them and if they want to stay in PNG and in Nauru, they can be resettled there.”
However, the founder and CEO of the Asylum Seeker Refugee Council Kon Karapanagiotidis told Pro Bono Australia News the move was unprecedented and the refugee sector would do everything to block it including a high court challenge.
“No country in the industrialised world has ever passed such a law to permanently ban people from seeking protection. It is illegal. It is a breach of the refugee convention,” Karapanagiotidis said.
“It is so immoral and it shows what a desperate government this is knowing the profound impact that the Bring Them Here campaign has had in turning of the tide of community sentiment where the majority of Australian voters actually want the people on Nauru and Manus to be safely settled which includes being brought here.”
He said the move was akin to reintroducing the white Australia policy.
“You would have to think there would be a high court challenge. I don’t see how it can be constitutional to do such a thing. You would have to think it was a breach of the racial discrimination act as well. It is like White Australia policy… pure White Australia policy all over again,” Karapanagiotidis said.
“We would be very much up to fighting this because this cannot possibly be legal. To ban a group of people from entering Australia on the basis of what… on their mode of arrival, on the basis of their race? How could it possibly be legal?”
He said the refugee sector would be starting with a campaign to the crossbenchers in the senate.
“I think there is wonderful momentum within our sector we would be thinking to work very quickly with the sector with the rest of the refugee movement to get the senate to block this,” he said.
“We will hit the ground running immediately because this is unacceptable. Think abut this. This is just a restatement of the White Australia policy.”