ASRC submission on lifetime refugee visa ban


The ASRC has made a submission to the Senate committee inquiring into the Government’s proposed lifetime ban on refugees who sought asylum by sea from ever setting foot in Australia. The ASRC is opposed to the proposed law.

The proposed lifetime ban on returning to Australia will tear families apart and result in indefinite separation of Australian partners, children and siblings. It also disproportionately and arbitrarily punishes certain asylum seekers who arrive by boat, based on their date of arrival and mode of arrival.

The Government’s Bill is harsh, excessive and unjustified, and will have an extremely detrimental effect on the mental health of already vulnerable people.

It comes as the Government has announced a deal with the United State to resettle people on Manus and Nauru in the US.

The Australian Government initially said the deal was contingent on the passage of this Bill. However it is clear that this is not something the US has sought, but rather another cynical attempt by our Government to score political points at the expense of people languishing on Manus and Nauru.

The ASRC is calling on the Senate to stand for decency and reject this Bill.

Since the proposal was announced, thousands of people around the country have contacted their MPs and Senators asking them to vote against it.

We need Labor, the Greens and crossbench Senators to vote against this cruel, unnecessary and unjustified attack on people seeking asylum.

It’s time to get our community on the #RightTrack.

Executive Summary

The Bill provides for a bar on valid visa applications by adults who were taken to a regional processing country after 19 July 2013 including transitory persons. It prevents onshore and offshore visa applications by people who arrived by boat who are currently detained on Nauru or Manus Island, as well as people living in Australia who have been transferred from Nauru or Manus Island back to Australia, for medical or other reasons. The bar applies to any temporary or permanent visa applications from asylum seekers and refugees, including tourist, partner and skilled visas.

The ASRC strongly disagrees with the government’s claims that the Bill is compatible with Australia’s international human rights obligations, and opposes the passage of this Bill for the following reasons:

a) The Bill will have the effect of splitting up families and preventing family reunion, in breach of Australia’s international obligations. This will severely impact upon Australian family units involving partners, children and siblings.

b) The lifetime ban on refugees within the regional processing cohort is a penalty against people seeking asylum because it unlawfully discriminates based on their mode of arrival, in breach of Article 31 of the Refugees Convention.

c) The Bill is unnecessary and unjustified, as it does not meet a legitimate purpose.

d) The power of the Minister to lift the bar on valid applications in the ‘public interest’ is broad and not subject to review.

e) The Bill will have an extremely detrimental effect on the mental health of already vulnerable people.

The ASRC notes the timing of the introduction of this Bill and the announcement on Sunday 13 November that the refugees currently on Manus Island and Nauru will be resettled to the United States pursuant to a bilateral agreement.

This Bill, which bars people resettled in third countries from applying for visas to Australia in the future, is an unnecessary and unhelpful distraction from the urgent need to provide a suitable solution for resettlement. We believe that this Bill must not be used to delay closing offshore detention centres and moving these people to safety.

You can read the full here: ASRC Submission on Regional Processing Cohort Bill 2016.


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