Opposing Regressive Changes to Australian Migration Law

From Sight Magazine: ACRT warns of “fear, uncertainty and trauma”.

31 October 2016:  Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce says Australian Government bid to enshrine ban on refugees in law will create further “fear, uncertainty and trauma” by David Adams, Sight Magazine. Christian refugee advocates have said proposed laws aimed at banning refugees permanently from ever obtaining a visa to Australia will “create further fear, uncertainty and trauma” among those who have ever been transferred to the regional processing centres on Nauru and Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island. Read the full story…

Press Release: Bans on refugees to be enshrined in bad and sad legislation, and call on the Senate to block it

30 October 2016: New laws, to be rushed into parliament when MPs return to Canberra next week, mean that many people who have been found to be refugees will be banned from ever obtaining an Australian visa of any kind, even as a tourist.

The legislation will create further fear, uncertainty and trauma to anyone who has ever been transferred to a regional processing centre.

Misha Coleman, Executive Officer of the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce, which represents over 930 Christian entities around Australia, said today that “the Government clearly has no plan. Mr Turnbull has just not been able to find a solution, an alternative nor a long term plan. Introducing legislation to keep people locked up forever will never be a solution that the Christian members of the Taskforce will accept”.

She said that “there ARE alternatives, and we’ll be releasing a package of policy options, which the government has failed to find itself, in the same week as this draconian legislation will be introduced into the House of Representatives”.

She also said that “this legislation will drastically affect 310 people seeking asylum that I speak to regularly, here in Melbourne and in suburbs around Australia, who are largely young families with small children.

The legislation is called The Migration Legislation Amendment (Regional Processing Cohort) Bill and Christians around Australia will be called to action to prevent the passage of this bill and to support alternatives.

She said that “The Government’s policy of offshore detention is in disarray – they need to find a resolution for people who are withering away in the offshore camps, but the government can only come up with punitive plans to distract from the fact that they don’t have a plan, they don’t know what they are doing.”

“In the meantime, churches around  Australia will call on their elected Senators to block this legislation.”

Media Inquiries and comment:

Misha Coleman, Executive Officer, Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce, 0428 399 739

Peter Stahel

Client Manager

T. 02 8280 9108   M. 0408 584 439   

Nauru: The Detention Hasn’t Ended

On the face of it, the announcements by the Government of Nauru that the detention centre they host will now be open 24 hours a day, and that the remaining refugee applications are to be processed within a week, are welcome movements in the right direction. From Read the full story in Sight Magazine, 10th October, 2015 by Misha Coleman.


This is the evidence of Australia’s role in a regime of torture

Torture and murder claims have long plagued the Sri Lankan government while details of the Australian Government’s close friendship with them has been a secret, until now. Watch the ABC 7.30 report’s story from August 3, 2015.

Additional Content: Download the full 7.30 Report Transcript; read the  AFP’s Response to the 7.30 Report story and find out What the AFP gave Sri Lankan police. For more information on the Taskforce’s campaign against regressive changes to Australian Migration Law, visit the campaign archive.


Briefing to Senators re: Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload Bill 2014


Misha Coleman, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and Senator John Madigan: Briefing to Senators re the dangers of supporting the forthcoming Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload Bill 2014.

The Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce is an initiative supported by the National Council of Churches in Australia, and the Steering Committee is comprised of 22 leaders

[1] from nine Christian churches and three ecumenical bodies. The Taskforce has a further 513 Christian entities who are network members. The Taskforce has prepared a submission to the Senate inquiry into the Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload) Bill 2014[2].

We are writing to ask you to ensure that you are briefed about what we believe are deeply troubling impacts of the Bill if it is passed in its current form, including:

· the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection will be permitted to circumvent the law by superseding rulings of the High Court. He/she will also be permitted to make decisions for asylum seekers even if our international legal obligations have not been considered. This gives one individual an unprecedented and unregulated amount of power;

· any children who have been born in Australia, but whose parents arrived by boat, will be condemned to a life of statelessness. Children who are stateless are often denied the right to go to school, the right to ever work legally, and the right to possess a passport – they have no country to call home and will live their lives in constant limbo;

· we do not want to see any asylum seekers die at sea, however in the two years after Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs) were last used, we saw more women and children risk their lives attempting to reach Australia by boat. They did this because they knew that TPVs meant they would never see their families again (the detail of what happened last time is overleaf). The proposed reintroduction of TPVs under this Bill will have the same impact;

· the Bill will give the aforementioned Minister unprecedented and unchecked power to act in a unilateral manner when it comes to determining the fate of asylum seekers. One of these powers will be the ability to issue directions to our naval forces to tow boats to countries that do not have any existing agreements with Australia, which will damage our relationship with countries in the region;

· we know that asylum seekers who have been sent back to their country of origin (refouled) have subsequently been detained, tortured and in some cases murdered. Under this Bill, the Australian Government would be responsible for many more asylum seekers sent back to serious harm or death.

The Taskforce rejects this legislation in its entirety. If it is passed, we recommend that it be amended to contain provisions addressing the following:

1. Access to protection visas for those awarded a TPV or SHEV (Safe Haven Enterprise Visa) after a period of no more than three years;
2. Removal of the fast-track processing system;
3. Inclusion of family reunion and travel rights (including re-entry) for TPV holders;
4. Funding to ensure that the mutual obligations attached to the SHEV are adequately supported. This should include provision for liaisons in regional communities to work with local churches and community groups to ensure the full social and economic participation of relocated refugees.

The Real Impact of Temporary Protection Visas on Boat Arrival Numbers when they were last introduced

· Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs) were introduced in October 1999. This resulted in a jump in the overall number of asylum seekers arriving by boat from November 1999 – October 2001.

· The most significant change was in the type of people who engaged people smugglers. The red and green bars above show the dramatic jump in the number of women and children who arrived by boat. This happened because asylum seekers knew they would never see their families again under TPVs and so tried to stay together.

· In September 2001, John Howard introduced many changes to the way we process asylum seekers, including sending asylum seekers to Nauru and Manus Island (known as The Pacific Solution), and excising thousands of islands around Australia from our migration zone. This meant that boats that came close to the Australian mainland were now classified as being in “international waters” so that Australia did not have to offer assistance under the Refugee Convention.

· John Howard also authorised the interception and tow-back of boats under Operation Relex. Because of these changes, there was a drop in the number of people who arrived in Australia by boat, however at no point did asylum seekers stop trying to come to Australia this way. From 2003, despite The Pacific Solution, the number of asylum seekers arriving by boat increased again. It is also important to remember that the number of people seeking asylum in 2001 and 2002 was lower all over the world – so it would be wrong to say that TPVs were a successful deterrent to boat arrivals.

· Of the asylum seekers who were sent to Nauru and Manus Island, 80% were eventually found to be refugees, meaning Australia did owe them protection and safety. In 2006, Shayan Badraie – an 11-year old Iranian boy – was paid $400,000 in compensation for the psychological damage he endured being detained for two years in our detention system.

[1] See http://www.australianchurchesrefugeetaskforce.com.au/about-us/members/[2] The full text of our submission is available at http://www.acrt.com.au/wp-content/uploads/ACRT-Submission-Resolving-Asylum-Caseload-Bill-301014.pdf

ACRT’s submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee

“An overarching concern of the Taskforce is that of our inalienable human dignity; not just of those who come to our shores seeking our protection, but also what our response to the challenges of displaced peoples in our modern era means for us as individual Australians and as a nation of peoples.” – ACRT Submission.

An inquiry into the Migration Amendment (Regaining Control Over Australia’s Protection Obligations) Bill 2013

The Migration Amendment Bill 2013 seeks to overturn the current complementary protection regime. This regime was the culmination of several years considered work and has had less than two years in which to be tested. The Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce is deeply concerned about the Bill and asks that the Parliament reject the legislation in its current form.

Download the ACRT Submission.

Background Material

Download the ACRT Fact Sheet: Introducing the Complementary Protection Model

Download the report: Complementary Protection – the way ahead 2004.pdf