Magazine of Socialist Action in Australia

Abbott moving to further undermine refugee rights

Reading Time: 3 minutes

After sealing the disgraceful deal to send asylum seekers to Cambodia in September, the Abbott government is continuing to step up their attacks on refugee rights. New legislation dealing with people that arrive by boat explicitly contradicts international laws.

By Tim Tran, Socialist Party

The proposed laws take away the right of appeal for refugees. Up until now people have been able to use the courts as a means to try and defend their human rights against the government’s draconian refugee policies. Abbott now wants to remove this option.

The new laws will also give more power to the government to circumvent certain court rulings and will also allow them to reintroduce Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs). If passed these laws would remove any international obligations Australia has that result from being a signatory to the United Nations Refugee Convention.

The government has been motivated to rush through these new laws as a result of a pending High Court decision. It is likely that the High Court will find the action of hijacking the boats of 157 Tamil refugees on the high seas, and jailing them in a floating prison earlier this year illegal.

A number of legal experts have pointed out that the government sees the potential to lose a number of High Court challenges in the coming period. They want to rewrite the laws in order to legalise what they have been doing.

The new laws would mean that only the Immigration Minister will be able to refer appeal cases to review with a more restrictive new Immigration Assessment Authority. New powers will also allow the government to turn back boats with fewer restrictions.

The government would be able to use the provision that “a vessel or person may be taken to a place outside Australia, whether or not Australia has an agreement or arrangements with any country”.
TPVs will be used as a tool to further ‘deter’ people from coming to Australia. TPVs leave people in limbo, even when they have been found to be genuine refugees.

TPVs expire after three years and restrict travel rights. They do not allow visa holders to bring their family to Australia or to return if they leave the country. People on TPVs are told that they will never be offered permanent refugee status in Australia.

All these measures are aimed at strengthening the barbaric mandatory offshore detention system in poverty-stricken places such as Nauru, Manus Island and Cambodia alongside blocking any attempt at legally challenging the government’s extreme refugee policies.

These new laws need to be opposed. We can not allow the government to scapegoat refugees who are fleeing war and persecution. The truth is that refugees are not a burden on society, it is the government’s cruel policies that are the real burden.

Offshore processing means that billions of dollars are given to private companies running detention centres for profit. The government actually spent more than $1 billion this financial year to house about 2200 asylum seekers in offshore detention centres. That equates to nearly $500,000 per person!

Instead refugees should be settled in the community and allowed to work and contribute to society. The $1 billion wasted every year on offshore detention should be invested into public health, education and transport for all.

Massive investment in these areas would create thousands of jobs, homes and services – more than enough for everybody including the small amount of refugees who flee to our shores.

Ordinary people need to stand opposed to the governments divide and rule tactics and unite to fight for the equal distribution of the huge amounts of wealth that exists.


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