Bid to give more grounds for refugee refusal
The Federal Government has introduced legislation making it easier to send asylum seekers back to their home countries, while increasing the requirements for them to prove their claims.
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison says he is amending the Migration Act to speed up claims, but opponents say the only increase will be in the amount of people sent back.
“These changes uphold the importance of integrity, the establishment of identity and increased efficiency in our protection processing system,” Mr Morrison says.
If the new laws pass it will become an asylum seeker’s responsibility to prove their claim, and any who could not establish their identity would have their protection visa application automatically refused.
There may be some acknowledgment of particular asylum seekers, such as stateless people who do not have official documents, but ultimate responsibility for identification will lie solely with the asylum seeker.
Other changes include the removal of provisions for family reunions for asylum seekers, or for married couples or family relations to be assessed together.
The bill also raises the threshold of risk when sending Australian arrivals back to another country.
At the moment a person will not be returned from if there is a 10 per cent chance they will suffer significant harm, but the Government is raising the risk threshold to greater than 50 per cent.
Mr Morrison says the new threshold conforms to Australia’s minimal international legal obligations.
“It is the Government's position that the threshold applicable to the non-refoulement obligations under the [United Nation's] Convention against Torture and the ICCPR (International Covenant on Civil and Political rights) is more likely than not,” he said.
“More likely than not means that there would be a greater than 50 per cent chance that a person would suffer significant harm in the country they are returned to.
“Now this is an acceptable position which is open to Australia under international law and reflects the Government's interpretation of Australia's obligations.”
The Immigration Minister had been hoping to include an amendment removing the 90-day time limit for deciding a protection visa application, which forces the department to report to Parliament if a protection visa application has not been decided within 90 days.
This change is not included in the new legislation, reportedly because it was affected by a recent High Court decision on Temporary Protection Visas.
The claims of efficiency through more robust laws do not wash with the Opposition or the Greens.
The situation has been called “Government attempts to use complex legislation to sneak through shifting the goal posts on what determines refugee status,” by a spokesperson for Labor's immigration spokesperson Richard Marles.
“This is about allowing the Government to deport more refugees back home to danger... This is a mean, dangerous law,” says Greens immigration spokesperson Sarah Hanson-Young.
“If this was not so serious, if it was not about life or death, it would actually be a joke.”