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    Asylum-seekers in Australia

    New Australian Law 'Punishes People for Fleeing Persecution and Seeking Safety'

    © AFP 2019 / LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI
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    Successive Australian governments have competed over who will pass stricter laws on refugees, but the latest plan unveiled by current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is so harsh that it appears to be "a flagrant violation" of human rights, David Manne, Executive Director of Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre, told Radio Sputnik.

    Last week, Turnbull announced that under a new law all asylum seekers, who have illegally arrived to Australia by boat since July 19, 2013, will be banned from ever entering the country even if they have been classified as refugees.

    Manne, a human rights lawyer, said that the Australian parliament should never enact laws that are designed "to deliberately punish people fleeing persecution and seeking safety anywhere, including in Australia." Such legislation, he added, goes against the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees which Australia ratified in 1954.

    The parliament should also refrain from passing laws that "propose a lifelong visa-ban for refugees who come by sea," he noted.

    Not only does the new law appear "to be a flagrant violation of the rights of refugees," it also seems to be completely unnecessary. The existing legislation on refugees already contains "extremely harsh measures including a near universal ban in any event," he observed. "It's very difficult to see why this proposal has been put forward."

    Manne pointed out that Australians have expressed "profound concern" over the new law, largely viewing it as an "absurd, completely unnecessary and punitive measure." Of particular concern are the legislation's potentially "ridiculous" implications that could well rob Australia of world-class professionals, who once came to the country by boat as refugees and will now be banned from entering.

    "We've seen people in this country who have come by boat with incredible skills," he said. "There are so many other people who may in the future have an Australian family and would be barred from ever reuniting with them or visit them."

    Protesters hold placards at the 'Stand up for Refugees' rally held in central Sydney. Australia is negotiating a deal with the Philippines to transfer asylum seekers being held indefinitely in controversial detention centres on remote, impoverished islands, Australia's immigration minister said on October 9, 2015
    © REUTERS / David Gray/Files
    Protesters hold placards at the 'Stand up for Refugees' rally held in central Sydney. Australia is negotiating a deal with the Philippines to transfer asylum seekers being held indefinitely in controversial detention centres on remote, impoverished islands, Australia's immigration minister said on October 9, 2015

    The law, Manne added, targets "innocent people who really in this case would ultimately have what is tantamount to a life sentence."

    The human rights lawyer further mentioned that there has been "political jousting" between the two leading Australian parties over who "can devise harsher measures toward vulnerable people seeking protection as refugees in Australia. And there is concern that this type of announcement fits into this dynamic," with some people viewing it in terms of the government "playing politics with the lives of innocent people."

    Manne also said that the new law could have been announced because the government is reportedly planning to resettle refugees who have been sent to Australia's offshore processing centers in the Republic of Nauru and Manus Island, Papua New Guinea.

    "The difficult thing to understand though is why this announcement on its face does nothing to resolve what has widely been recognized as such an appalling and unsustainable situation for refugees suffering in limbo on Nauru and Manus. It's a situation that urgently needs to be resolved," he said.

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    Tags:
    ban, human rights, asylum seekers, Refugees, law, Malcolm Turnbull, Manus, Nauru, Australia
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