The Law Council of Australia’s Submission to Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers

In response to the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers call for submissions on the best way Australia can prevent asylum seekers from risking their lives on dangerous boat journeys to Australia, the Law Council of Australia made a submission on 18 July 2012. The aim of the Law Council’s Submission was to help the Panel devise a number of minimum requirements relating to Australia’s treatment and processing of asylum seekers.

In their submission, the Law Council voiced its opposition to Australia’s mandatory and non-reviewable immigration detention laws and policies. The Law Council believes that Australia’s current detention policy is contrary to international human rights standards and the basic rule of law. Furthermore, these laws and policies prevent Australia from meeting its obligations under the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees to which we are signatory.

To bring Australia in line with its international treaty obligations, the Law Council’s submission is that the Panel’s recommends that Australia’s law and policy be reformed to, as a minimum:

  • Comply with international human rights standards;
  • Comply with relevant High Court decisions;
  • Integrate with the Bali Process Regional Cooperation Framework;
  • Align with New Directions in Detention policy;
  • Address key recommendation of recent parliamentary inquiries;
  • Included specific legal safeguards and protections;
  • Include minimum standards for immigration detention facilities that adhere to human rights standards; and
  • Include provision of adequate legal assistance.

The Law Council believes that these minimum requirements should form part of Australia’s long-term solution to our asylum seeker issue.

In response to the pressing issue of people risking their lives by travelling to Australia illegally by boat while a longer term solution is found and implemented, the Law Council has also recommended a number of short to medium term policy options including:

  • Increasing resettlement numbers under the offshore Refugee and Humanitarian program in ‘transit’ countries, for example, Indonesia and Malaysia;
  • Decoupling the link between the offshore Refugee and Humanitarian program and onshore protection programs which would help address the negative impacts of family separation and prevent family members from attempting the dangerous journey to Australia by boat; and
  • Reforming the family migration program to include timely visa pathways for siblings and thus relieve the burden from the Offshore Humanitarian Program.

For more information or if you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact our Migration Team.

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