Migration Act amended to exclude refugees with bad security assessment – Coalition and Labor combine forces in Senate to pass bill while Greens rage against it. By Paul Farrell and Oliver Laughland, theguardian.com, Wednesday 14 May 2014 17.20 AEST.
The Senate has passed a controversial amendment to the Migration Act that would prevent refugees who have received an adverse security assessment from seeking a protection visa. The amendment expressly excludes people who have been given adverse security assessments by ASIO from receiving protection visas.
The legislation may mean some refugees are held in detention indefinitely. ASIO assessments of people who are non-citizens cannot be reviewed, and people found to be refugees cannot be returned to their country of origin, placing them in legal limbo.
The bill was passed with the support of the Labor party and Coalition. Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said: “With this bill, the Abbott government has guaranteed the permanent, indefinite detention of refugee families.
“This cruel and unnecessary move from the Labor and Liberal parties will damage vulnerable people and Australia’s international reputation.
“This bill will see dozens of refugees who have received secretive adverse ASIO assessments locked up on Australian soil, without charge and with no chance of release.”
Human rights and legal advocacy groups expressed concerns about the bill. The Human Rights Law Centre said there were no safeguards for people found to be refugees who had been granted an adverse assessment.
“A refugee who receives an adverse ASIO security assessment may be indefinitely detained. The proposed reforms do not contain adequate procedural checks and balances to ensure such detention is not arbitrary,” its submission said.
ASIO’s process of imposing security assessments has led to thousands of complaints to the intelligence watchdog. An independent review system was established by the previous Labor government, and numerous decisions were ultimately overturned by ASIO.
The passing of the bill comes just after an urgent appeal was made to the United Nations human rights commissioner and special rapporteurs on behalf of asylum seekers.
Ben Pynt, a director of the human rights research organisation Humanitarian Research Partners, lodged the appeal on behalf of asylum seekers on Manus Island.
The appeal, a copy of which has been seen by Guardian Australia, contains a summary of events during the Manus unrest in February as well as details of conditions inside the centre garnered from multiple sources.
“Speaking to people at Manus Island, I feel I am bearing witness to crimes against humanity. Not only are the physical and environmental conditions at the centre deeply oppressive, but there is also severe mental stress placed on asylum seekers to coerce them into returning to their home countries,” Pynt writes.
“The men are being effectively broken to the point where some see return to places like Syria as a legitimate option.”