Has Australia finally been thrown overboard without a life vest? Or are we still clinging to the life-line some call a mockery of international law; our immigration policy.
Earlier this month, Papua New Guinea’s Supreme Court ruled Australia’s detention of asylum seekers on Manus Island to be illegal. The Court ordered that both PNG and Australian Governments needed to take immediate action in closing down the ‘unconstitutional and illegal detention of the asylum seekers or transferees at the relocation centre on
Manus Island’. The grounds for this decision lay largely rest on the interference this detention centre inflicts on a refugee’s human rights at international law and under the PNG constitution.
President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Gillian Triggs, commented on this decision by demonstrating that the key difference between both countries, is the constitutional human rights provisions. As evidenced by previous Australian High Court decisions, Australia has not included these provisions within the Constitution. Triggs argues that this is why Australia has been able to validate offshore processing without regard to fundamental human rights including preventing the deprivation of liberty.
The Australian Government has responded through Immigration Minister Peter Dutton who has attempted to reassure Australian citizens that the findings of the Supreme Court in PNG are not binding on the Australian Government and will not affect Australian Immigration policy.
Is this reassurance?
Australia is a signatory to the Refugees Convention, a key international instrument that defines the duties and obligations of states to protect refugees fleeing from persecution. Australia has ratified Article 1A(2) into the Migration Act 1958 into domestic law.
These steps taken by Australia to prove itself worthy in the eyes of the International Community fall short, especially given the recent PNG decision. As a result of the current stance taken by Australia and the well-known Abbott Government policy ‘turn back the boats’, Australia has been condemned for its treatment of refugees.
Whether you are in agreeance with the PNG decision or not, the public, through social movements like the Let Them Stay campaign, want an answer. The constant stream of news alerting us to another detainee suicide or a criticism from an overseas government is distressing and embarrassing as a citizen of a country that once espoused equality and mateship.
The reassurance should and must come from an alternative. A lifeboat that promises to prioritise human rights as well as border security.