Immigration law has sparked strong criticism
An amended immigration law pushed through the Australian parliament has sparked strong criticism from Human Rights and Refugee advocates.
An amended immigration law pushed through the Australian parliament has sparked strong criticism from human rights and refugee advocates.
There have also been protests in Australia's detention camp in Papua New Guinea where more than 250 asylum seekers went on a hunger strike, which included seven men sewing their mouths shut.
Indira Moala reports.
The amended law seeks to resolve a case load of about 30,000 asylum seekers in the next three years. It also removed Australia's obligation to adhere to the United Nations Refugee Convention. The Director of Legal Advocacy at Australia's Human Rights Law Centre, Daniel Webb, says the bill is a shocking piece of legislation.
DANIEL WEBB: I think it's a truly regressive law. And the Australian Government is effectively saying, we'll do the right thing, we'll play by the rules but we won't say what those rules are and we don't want any court to have the power to hold us to account if we break those rules.
The bill allows asylum seekers processed in Australia to apply for Temporary Protection Visas, but excludes those held in PNG or Nauru. The Refugee Action Coalition's spokesperson Ian Rintoul says the exclusion of the asylum seekers who were arbitrarily relocated to the Nauru and Manus detention camps is unfair.
IAN RINTOUL: They've suffered enormous hardships and appalling conditions on Manus and Nauru since July last year. They've got no security on Manus Island or PNG and they're now, according to the government, entirely excluded from Australia. The unfairness or discriminatory aspect of that weighs very heavily on the Asylum Seekers in Nauru and Manus Island.
A refugee in Australia, who doesn't want to be named, says the news has greatly disturbed asylum seekers and refugees both on and offshore.
REFUGEE: Since the time we hear the recent news about the immigration law, believe me, we cannot even sleep during the night. We are always thinking about unclear and very dark future, that's laying ahead of us, my family. My wife and I, even all the refugees, all the asylum seekers have talked about - we are very disturbed. They don't know what to do.
He says temporary protection visas, if they are successful in applying for them, do not give them any hope.
REFUGEE: No, no. Because, imagine I have escaped from the one who is planning to kill me. Can you just provide a safe place for me just for two days? No, unfortunately, our expectation of Australian government is to support security and a safe place for us for a long time. If we didn't have to leave our countries we wouldn't.
Mr Webb says temporary protection visas fail to give refugees the security they need to move on with their lives.
DANIEL WEBB: So those people then live in Australia, not knowing whether one day the government will uproot them and uproot their families and send them back. And I think leaving people in that state of indefinite limbo is tremendously cruel.
The Australian Attorney-General, George Brandis, has now announced 700 children on Christmas Island will be released. Mr Webb says Scott Morrison made the asylum seeker children on Christmas Island the hostages of his political agenda.
DANIEL WEBB: A senate inquiry into the bill received over 5000 submissions. All of them opposed the bill except for the one from the Immigration Minister's own department. Nevertheless it passed the Australian Senate because the Immigration Minister contacted Key Senators and effectively said to them, if you pass this law, I will release some children from detention. But if you don't pass this law, those children will remain in detention.
Daniel Webb says every other major political party apart from the government, opposed the bill when it was introduced.
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