Proposed Bill that would ban citizens from designated countries from entering Australia and criminalise some migrants is inhumane

May 10, 2024 |

The Federal Government is seeking to legislate the Migration Amendment (Removals and Other Measures) Bill 2024, which we believe to be inhumane and discriminatory.

Having already passed the House of Representatives, the Bill was formally recommended to the Senate earlier this week, when the Senate inquiry report was handed down. This recommendation is contrary to nearly all submissions to the inquiry, which were opposed to the Bill. There were dissenting reports to the Bill from Coalition Senators, the Australian Greens, Senator David Pocock and a cross section of community organisations.

The Bill proposes a new regime for forcibly removing people who are subject to deportation from Australia. This includes people seeking asylum who have fled persecution in their home countries, but whose visa applications have been denied.

The Bill would permit the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs to direct people subject to deportation to take steps to facilitate their removal from Australia. Failure to comply with such ministerial directions would, under the Bill, result in a minimum twelve-month (and maximum of five years) prison sentence. This effectively mirrors the government’s policy of indefinite detention.

The Bill would also expand the Minister’s power to reverse a refugee’s protection finding at any time.

In addition, the Bill imposes a blanket ban on citizens from designated countries from entering Australia, with extremely limited exceptions.

None of the above takes into account the diverse circumstances under which many refugees and migrants in Australia find themselves, nor their genuine fear of persecution or worse if deported back to their home countries.

There has been considerable outrage from human rights, legal and community organisations across the country over the proposed legislation, including the Australian Human Rights Commission and Human Rights Law Centre, both of whom published damning submissions outlining the ethical challenges posed by the Bill.

The Federation of Community Legal Centres is strongly opposed to the Bill being passed into law, and urges all Senators to reject it.

The Bill not only penalises people experiencing extreme vulnerability but sets a dangerous precedent for Australia’s legislative future. In granting the Minister a set of broad and unchecked powers, and imposing mandatory sentences, the Bill undermines the integrity of our immigration system and fundamental principles of the justice system. In these ways, we believe the Bill to be out of step with community values and the rule of law.

Legislation banning people from entering Australia based on their nationality will separate families and tear apart lives, and signals a clear shift in the Australian Government’s willingness to use discrimination as a public policy tool. We also note that a discriminatory immigration policy may breach Australia’s international non-discrimination obligations, including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Refugee Convention.

Lastly, legislating the Bill would mark an abandonment of respect for human rights, automatically lowering the bar for other human rights breaches in the future.

Louisa Gibbs, CEO at the Federation of Community Legal Centres said:
“This proposed legislation has left many in the community legal sector in a state of shock and disbelief. Community lawyers work with refugees, migrants and asylum seekers fleeing persecution, and understand the exceptional challenges experienced by these people desperately seeking safety.

“It is distressing that the Australian Government is rushing to push through this extreme legislation despite overwhelming opposition through an inquiry process, and its consequences on human rights and common human decency.

“We are a proudly multicultural society and the government’s bid to lock up people who fear persecution and discriminate against others should concern all Australians.”

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