Confused Senate Committee Report on Bill to evacuate refugees held offshore tabled

Media Release
March 7, 2023

The ALP-dominated Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs released a report, today, recommending a vote against the Migration Amendment (Evacuation to Safety) Bill 2023, which would offer urgent evacuation to the 160 refugees still held offshore in PNG and Nauru.

The Committee’s report was contradictory and confused, recommending that the Bill not pass, but providing no reason why this stance was taken and “urges the government to urgently consider all available options to effect the removal of asylum seekers and refugees currently in offshore detention.”

Numerous refugees who are currently held offshore or recently transferred provided evidence to the committee of the harm caused by the government over the previous decade and the flaws with the current system. The Committee’s report did not refer to the evidence provided by people directly impacted.

The Committee report noted the inadequacies of medical facilities in PNG and Nauru, the lack of any orderly transfer process, and the violations of human rights occurring offshore. The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) has under the Albanese Government submitted 34 risk notifications for people held offshore, of which 19 people have been transferred after extensive advocacy and delays through a chaotic and unfair process.

Despite only being open for public input for two weeks the committee received over 210 submissions, letters and statements concerning the Bill including from the UNHCR, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Doctors Without Borders and many more. The only submission in opposition to the Bill was from the Department of Home Affairs.

The Greens issued a dissenting report in support of the Bill.

The Bill is slated to be voted on in the Senate tomorrow, following its introduction by Greens Senator Nick McKim on 6 February 2023. ASRC urges all Senators to support this Bill.

Jana Favero, Director of Advocacy and Campaigns, at the ASRC said: “The Committee’s report is mindboggling. It is a report where the recommendation contradicts the pages after it. It cannot ignore reality, accepting that the current situation ‘cannot be allowed to continue’, yet at the same time recommending the bill does not pass. The confusion in the report is made all the worse because for refugees this Bill could mean the difference between life and death.

The ARSC’s submission alone includes the brave and powerful words and stories of 10 refugees held offshore, yet the report does not once acknowledge anyone directly affected. It is clear why: the current system can only continue if people seeking asylum are dehumanised and denied their rights. In recommending this Bill not pass the Committee had to pretend the people impacted do not exist.

This Bill is entirely in line with the Albanese Government’s stated policy on this issue and will allow for the humane and efficient evacuation of refugees held offshore. To vote against the Bill is to vote against medical care and human rights. 10 years ago people were exiled offshore at the hands of politicians. This bill is the perfect opportunity for politicians to put an end to the harm.”

Read ASRC’s submission to the inquiry here.


Media contact: Sam Brennan or 0428 973 324

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