13 April 2010

New policy violates refugee law

Dr Michelle Foster, director of the research program into refugee law at Melbourne University, writes in an op-ed in today’s edition of The Age that the Rudd government has turned its back on our responsibility to treat asylum seekers impartially – see Refugee obligations violated here.

In support of her position Dr Foster writes:

[Singling out only asylum seekers from two countries] appears to be in direct contravention of Article 3 of the Refugee Convention, which requires Australia to apply the convention ''without discrimination as to race, religion or country of origin'', as well as the principle of non-discrimination contained in other international human rights treaties to which Australia is a party.

After developing other arguments based upon the requirement to assess refugee claims on the basis of the circumstances at the time, rather than hoped-for future circumstances, the fact that the onus is on Australia to undertake its own assessment of each individual asylum seeker’s claim, and mandatory detention being at odds with the prohibition on arbitrary detention contained in Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Dr Foster concludes:

To those who may attempt to justify such harsh measures as necessary to ''deter'' future asylum seekers, it is worth remembering that those who travel to Australia without prior authorisation in order to seek asylum are not in violation of any domestic or international law. And, as the government has frequently reminded us, Australia receives an extremely low number of asylum applications compared with the rest of the world. In 2009, Australia received less than 2 per cent of all applications for asylum in the industrialised world.

This unprecedented and unjustifiable suspension violates our international obligations and represents a return to the abhorrent policies of the past. It must therefore be immediately lifted.

Read Dr Foster’s full article here.

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