Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers
Panel's recommendations criticised by human rights groups
14 August 2012: The recommendations of the 'Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers' have been heavily criticised by refugee advocacy groups for failing to comply with Australia's human rights obligations.
In brief, the Panel has recommended:
- A return to offshore processing on Nauru and Manus Island, meaning that any asylum seekers arriving by boat to Australia would be deported to Nauru or Manus Island without time limits on their processing time.
- A ‘no advantage’ principle which would deny refugees processed in Nauru or PNG entry into Australia more quickly than if their claim had been processed through normal United Nations channels. This could mean that proven refugees languish in processing centres on Nauru or Manus Island indefinitely.
- Removing family reunion concessions for refugees who themselves had arrived as boat arrivals. Removing family reunion was a key plank in the former Temporary Protection Visa policy, though the Panel is not recommending a return to TPVs as such.
- That turning boats back at sea could be a possibility in the future (although the Panel does say that current conditions do not make this advisable)
- An immediate increase in the Humanitarian Program, from 13,759 in 2011-12 (a figure that has changed little from 11,902 in 1996-97) to an annual intake of 20,000, and a further increase to 27,000 after five years. This recommendation has been much welcomed.
Here are some responses from refugee policy experts:
- 'The expert panel's no advantage principle could well mean that people are left stranded in limbo on Nauru or PNG for many, many years, in fact possibly even decades.' - David Manne, Refugee and Immigration Law Centre - read more
- 'People found to be refugees as part of the new version of the Pacific Solution overwhelmingly will have to be resettled to Australia – but only after an extended period of exile. It is highly unlikely that any resettlement country will seriously consider resettling refugees sent by Australia to Nauru or PNG, as each major resettlement country receives more asylum applications than Australia does. These refugees will be clearly seen in international law as Australia’s responsibility.' – Paul Power, Refugee Council of Australia - read more
- 'The Expert Panel promised to deliver an integrated policy package that adhered to Australia’s international obligations. Regrettably, many of the recommendations fail this test and are incompatible with Australia’s obligations under international human rights law.' - Rachel Ball, Human Rights Law Centre - read more
However, some of the Panel’s other recommendations have been welcomed, including the recommendation
Submissions to the Panel
20 July 2012: Many submissions by legal, human rights and social justice organisations have been made to the 'Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers', including a submission by CCJP.
Overwhelmingly, they call for Australia's asylum seeker policies to respect our human rights obligations under international treaties such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Refugee Convention. The goverment's 'Malaysia solution', and the Coalitions proposal to send asylum seekers to Nauru, are criticised for their failure to do so.
A variety of recommendations have been put forward to address the Panel's terms of reference, which is to advise on how best to prevent people risking their lives travelling to Australia by boat.