Australia's new asylum seeker law called a 'retrograde' policy
Critics of Australia's new law to force asylum seekers onto Nauru and PNG's Manus Island have called the policy retrograde and say it harms Australia's international reputation.
Australia's decision to excise the mainland from the migration zone as a way to force asylum seekers to its offshore detention centres in Nauru and PNG's Manus Island has come under heavy criticism.
The parliament rejected the Green Party amendments in favour of opening the centres for inspection by the Human Rights Commissioner and giving media access to the centres.
Professor Sharon Pickering, a criminology researcher at Monash University in Victoria, told Alex Perrottet the new law is retrograde and harms Australia's international reputation.
SHARON PICKERING: Australia is paying for and is directing these detention facilities. There is no doubt, under international law, they are therefore responsible for what occurs there. So, therefore, to restrict the usual checks and balances, the watchdog eyes on them, is unacceptable.
ALEX PERROTET: What are the ongoing implications for the people who end up staying indefinitely on these islands?
SP: The implications are significant. They're not able to access the ordinary procedures for applying and being considered for refugee protection in the same way that someone would should they be on the mainland. Moreover, the conditions of their detention are simply not subject to the kind of checks and balances that we would ordinarily expect of a liberal democracy such as Australia. So the conditions under which they live, we are entrusting those people who are charged with their incarceration to report back on the good, the bad and the ugly. And as we know from all forms of accountability and oversight work, that simply doesn't work in relation to maintaining best practise human rights standards.
AP: What does it do for for Australia's reputation in terms of international law and policy in this area?
SP: I think these moves can only be seen as harming Australia's international reputation in international law, but specifically in relation to human rights. To be putting themselves at arm's length from those people they are locking up in the conditions under which they're being locked up and refusing the kinds of ordinary oversight, means Australia is advertising to the world that it is not taking responsibility for those people who are seeking protection.
AP: Overall, is this a good policy for Australia?
SP: This is the most retrograde policy for Australia. It's retrograde because we know that those people who have sought asylum in Australia over a long period of time have overwhelmingly been found to be refugees. By pursuing this policy of offshore detention, we are also acknowledging that in the end we are still likely to be offering protection. Those people are still highly likely - if history tells us anything - to be resettled in Australia. Why on earth would we further compound their experiences of persecution, meaning they are more likely to be mentally and physically harmed under these conditions and we are eventually going to have to respond to their needs once they come to be resettled in Australia. So even in its own terms, it's not a good outcome for Australia. It's certainly not a good outcome for the individuals that are subject to this regime and it's not a good outcome for Australia's reputation, particularly in the region.
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