NFPs Protest Lifetime Ban on Refugee Visas
15 November 2016 at 5:43 pm
The Uniting Church in Australia has described as “immoral” the proposed legislation for a lifetime ban on visas for refugees who have arrived by boat since 2013.
UnitingJustice Australia has written to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee about the proposed legislation, saying the ban served no purpose and would separate families forever.
The Senate committee is inquiring into the Migration Legislation Amendment (Regional Processing Cohort) Bill 2016 after it was introduced into parliament last week.
Two weeks ago the federal government announced it would introduce a law ensuring that genuine refugees who had arrived in Australia by boat via smuggling syndicates would never be allowed to enter Australia in the future.
The government said it wanted to send a very strong message to the criminal people-smuggling syndicates that it would 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 by Mr Rudd and since then confirmed by Mr Shorten,” Turnbull said.
The letter to the Senate inquiry signed by the national director of UnitingJustice Australia, Rev. Elenie Poulos, said: “The Uniting Church believes, simply, that the proposed legislation is immoral.
“It is in breach of Article 31 of the refugee convention. It should not be passed.
“It further punishes an already severely traumatised group of people who have only ever sought our care and protection.
“Penalising innocent people who have been found to be refugees or who are engaging their right to seek asylum is not the appropriate way to stop the people smuggling trade,nor is it the way to address the significant movement of people fleeing conflict and persecution worldwide.
“This bill legislates for the separation of families.
“It would prevent people who have already been separated by war, violence and persecution from ever reuniting with their families in Australia without the special intervention of the minister for immigration.”
Poulos said it was almost inconceivable that such a law should be proposed, let alone be adopted.
The legislation is also set to be vigorously fought by Australian refugee advocates, including the possibility of a high court challenge.
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.