Refugee & Asylum Seeker Rights
The Asylum Seeker and Refugee Rights Unit was established in January 2015. Our vision is that Australia treats all people seeking asylum with decency and respect for their basic human rights while working constructively towards a safe, humane and orderly approach to forced displacement.
We work to achieve lasting systemic change and to mitigate the worst aspects of the current system in the interim. We do this by focussing on:
- Action beyond our borders - We target government and corporate action on Nauru and Manus Island and on the high seas - the sites of least transparency and greatest injustice;
- The worst excesses onshore - We also challenge the most acute human rights abuses onshore - arbitrary detention, secrecy, regressive legal changes and abuses in detention; and
- Advocating for humane policy alternatives - We are a principled and credible voice for a more humane, lawful and constructive policy approach. Our public advocacy helps establish the preconditions for lasting change.
After nearly five years of fear, violence and limbo, 22 refugees yesterday left Nauru to fly to safety in the United States as part of the US refugee resettlement deal. However, over 1800 people - including 150 children - are still languishing in desperate and dangerous conditions across Manus and Nauru.
Today the International Commission of Jurists, Victoria announced Daniel Webb, Director of Legal Advocacy with the Human Rights Law Centre, as the winner of the 2018 John Gibson Award for his work defending the rights of refugees and people seeking asylum.
After nearly five years of fear and violence on Manus Island approximately 40 men are today flying to safety to the United States as part of the US resettlement deal. For the people left behind, in the Australian Government’s offshore detention centres, hope is running out.
The Australian Government has ratified an important UN torture prevention treaty. The Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) is a mechanism established to prevent cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in places of detention.
Overnight, a UN committee of independent human rights experts told Australia to end the indefinite limbo of the 2000 men, women and children being warehoused on Manus Island and Nauru by evacuating them to safety in Australia.
Four and a half years is a long time. I think about all the things that have happened in my life in four and a half years. I think about all of the things that have happened in the world in four and half years. And then I think about the innocent men on Manus, and the children and the families on Nauru.
There was a fleeting moment of hope and compassion for refugees stranded on Manus Island for the last four and a half years today when the Australian Parliament voted to support their safe resettlement in New Zealand, only for the Government to then block the motion by orchestrating a re-vote.
Australian companies need to be held to account for human rights abuses they commit overseas, but Australia’s complaints system is woefully inadequate and in desperate need of reform.
This morning PNG armed forces have again stormed the Manus Island regional processing centre. Reports say they are beating the men and forcing them to leave. This follows yesterday’s actions where approximately 50 of the 400 men were forced to move to accommodation that two days earlier the UN had found was unsafe and unready.
The Australian Government is bracing for another round of intense scrutiny at the United Nations – this time focusing on its efforts to combat racial discrimination.
Australia was condemned overnight by a UN Human Rights Committee for its human rights record on a range of issues including refugees, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ rights, youth justice and democratic freedoms. Australia was condemned overnight by a UN Human Rights Committee for its human rights record on a range of issues including refugees, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ rights, youth justice and democratic freedoms. The UN Committee honed in on Australia’s cruelty to refugees as the crisis on Manus Island continues to escalate. The Committee urged the Government to evacuate every man currently held on Manus and bring them to safety in Australia.
The UN’s top expert on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions has included criticism of the Australian Government in a scathing global report condemning deterrence-based responses to people seeking asylum.
A threatening notice posted inside the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre (RPC) today has warned refugees detained there for the last four and a half years that from the 31 October, all food, water and electricity will be disconnected, the fences will come down and the facility will be handed over to the PNG Defence Forces.
Just one day after condemning the Australian Government’s “chronic non-compliance” with international human rights laws, in a further hearing overnight the expert Committee honed in on the Government’s cruelty to refugees and in particular its offshore detention regime. The Human Rights Committee described the policies as “shocking” and “disturbing”.
Australian engineering firm Canstruct will be complicit in serious human rights abuses if it takes over the contract to run the Australia’s immigration detention centre on Nauru. A leaked memo from Canstruct’s CEO overnight, shows the company will take over the contract to run the Nauru centre by the end of the month, and will be paid $8 million by the Australian Government.
Overnight Australia was slammed by the UN Human Rights Committee for its “chronic non-compliance” with, and disengagement from, that Committee’s work. Australia’s record on human rights was found lacking as part of the Committee’s review into Australia’s protection of civil and political rights.
During the same week that Australia is expected to be granted a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council, an expert UN committee will grill the Australian Government over its own human rights record.
“This is the most significant UN position Australia has sought since the Security Council. Relatively speaking Australia is likely to be a positive force for reform on the Council, but if it wants to have the credibility required to be a true human rights leader it can't continue to blatantly breach international law itself. There's no doubt that it's cruel treatment of refugees will hamstring Australia's efforts on Council," said Emily Howie.
"After four years of fear, violence, suffering and death, these men deserve safety. Shunting them from one island prison to another doesn’t cut it,” said Daniel Webb.
The Rt. Hon. Joe Clark, former Prime Minister of Canada and chair of the Award jury, has announced Daniel Webb, Director of Legal Advocacy with the Human Rights Law Centre as a winner of the inaugural Global Pluralism Award for his work highlighting and promoting the rights of refugees and people seeking asylum.
Another refugee held by the Australian Government on Manus Island has been found dead. He was one of over 900 men who came to Australia seeking safety but have been held on Manus for four years. His is the ninth death in the Australian run offshore detention centres and the second on Manus Island in just two months.
After four years of fear and violence, a small handful of people finally received some good news. But this doesn't close the dark chapter in our history — not until every single man, woman and child tormented on Nauru and Manus Island is safe.
The United Nations has been asked to urgently intervene to halt the Australian Government’s moves to make refugees and people seeking asylum destitute as a means of coercing them to return to danger and harm on Nauru or Manus Island.
“It’s time to bring some compassion, common sense and basic human decency back to the way we treat people seeking asylum. Premier Andrews has shown it. Now it’s time for other leaders to do the same,” said Daniel Webb.
“These are babies who’ve taken their first steps and spoken their first words in Australia. Kids going to Australian schools. Families who have been part of our community for years. And now, out of the blue, they’ll be effectively thrown out on the streets in a cruel attempt to force them back to harm,” said Hugh de Kretser.
MEDIA ALERT - PRESS CONFERENCE
Who: Hugh de Kretser, Executive Director, Human Rights Law Centre - who represent most of the affected people, Amy Frew, Lawyer, Human Rights Law Centre, Natasha Blucher, Detention Advocacy Manager, Asylum Seeker Resource Centre
Date: Sunday 27 August 2017
Time: 11:00AM (AEST)
Location: HRLC, Level 17, 461 Bourke St, Melbourne
"The people in the Manus detention centre are tired from this kind of political games. We just want freedom and a chance to rebuild our lives," said Behrouz Boochani.
Another man held by the Australian Government on Manus Island has been found dead. It is reported that the refugee’s body was found in dense jungle on the island. He was one of over 900 men who came to Australia seeking safety but have been held on Manus for four years.
“I just cried as I was reading the transcripts of the most two powerful leaders in this world. Their words made me feel like I am just a product to them and I can be traded for anything.”
“I am just a human being and there is no need to play with my life. All I want is to respect and love others and be loved and respected in return. All I need is a sense of belonging to a safe country so that I can live a life that every human deserves.” - Imran Mohammad, a refugee held on Manus Island for almost four years.
“Turnbull was clearly more concerned with appearances than reality - totally preoccupied with maintaining the facade of the deal irrespective of whether or not anyone will actually find safety under it.”
Men are dying, women have been sexually assaulted and children traumatised on Manus and Nauru. This can’t continue writes Daniel Webb.
If we’ve learnt anything from the #LetThemStay campaign. If we’ve learnt anything from Baby Asha and the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital. If we’ve learnt anything from the church sanctuary movement, it’s this: on this issue, we can’t sit back and hope for leadership from our politicians. It’s you who must lead them.
Trump is set to sign executive orders imposing a freeze on all refugee resettlement – those detained offshore should be brought to safety in Australia.
Malcolm Turnbull’s proposed lifetime visa ban is a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist and an attempt to distract us from one that does.
The proposal is absurd, the wedge politics cynical and the explanations insincere. Sadly, the fear and harm being caused is real.
Our Prime Minister, Immigration Minister and Foreign Minister have spent this week in New York attending high-profile global summits on refugees. They arrived insisting that the Australian government's policies were the "best in the world", but they'll leave having offered little more than self-congratulations.
The PNG government has conceded that the Manus facility must close. But while tearing down the fences would be a significant step, the real issue is not the future of the facility itself but of the 854 men trapped inside it.
Australia’s offshore camps are a house of cards. They’re unsustainable and liable to collapse amid increasing corporate aversion to complicity in abuse, legal uncertainty and human despair.
Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull's announcement of a royal commission into the abuse of children in Northern Territory jails gives an insight into his instincts on human rights.
Every day that the Manus Island and Nauru camps stay open, people suffer. Every day that Ferrovial operates those centres, it is exposed to risk, writes the HRLC's Rachel Ball.
The PNG Supreme Court's unanimous ruling highlights the harmfulness of Australia's treatment of asylum seekers in the Manus Island detention centre.