Asylum seekers and refugees

Australia’s current asylum seekers policies and practices are a gross breach of human rights and decency. CCL gives very high priority to helping bring about fundamental reform to these policies. We prioritise advocacy for the restoration of Australia’s commitment to respect and fulfil our international human rights obligations, especially in relation to the Convention for the Security of Refugees, which the Australian Government has so shamefully repudiated in law and in practice.

Specific priorities include the reinstatement of a pathway to permanent visas; an end to indefinite detention of refugees resulting from ASIO adverse security assessments; clear policy separation of ‘border security’; and ‘national security’; visa cancellations  and an ongoing update of CCL policy in response to the latest Australian Government policies and practices.

An interesting court case: refugees start with a clean slate following revocation of visa cancellation

A visa holder can have his or her (usually his) visa cancelled if he fails the character test, under section 501 of the Migration Act. One way to fail that test is to be sentenced to imprisonment for 12 months or more. The term of imprisonment may be for a single offence, or it can the sum of more than one term.

If a person is held to have failed the test, his visa must be cancelled. It is mandatory. But the cancellation can be revoked, if a minister or her or his delegate (a public servant) decides to do so, or, in some cases, if the Administrative Appeals Commission decides that it should be revoked.

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What’s happening to Australia’s refugees?

Update 7 April - since the time of writing, many refugees have been released in an apparent pre-election move. While this is to be welcomed, it appears that arbitrary decisions have been made about who to release and refugees have not been given sufficient notice or support. For more:

Inside the Park hotel in Melbourne, Australia and the world saw the stark reality of the nation’s approach to refugees. Cousins Mehdi and Adnan, who fled persecution in Iran as teenagers and have now grown up together in detention centres. Or Joy, who has survived shark bites, sickness, and beatings since he fled Bangladesh but still dreams of opening a restaurant in Australia. 

Jamal, having left his homeland when his work with Western forces in Afghanistan drew Taliban attention, was driven to such despair after five years in detention offshore that he set himself on fire. But he now looks for the signs of pro-refugee supporters outside the hotel every day: “the people who give me strength”.

Average time of detention: nearly two years

At the time of writing, Mehdi had just gained his freedom after nine years in detention. Let that sink in: Australia held a 15 year old refugee in detention until he was 24.

But more than 1,500 people remain detained in Australian immigration detention facilities. The average period spent in onshore immigration detention is 689 days, compared with 55 days in the United States and 14 days in Canada.  About 32 people were still detained in the Park Hotel at the end of January, according to the SMH. Meanwhile, according to the government’s latest figures, revealed in Senate estimates, 107 people – 81 refugees and 26 asylum seekers – were still held on Nauru. Though they have been released into the Nauru community, they cannot leave the island.  As of September 30, 2021, 278 asylum seekers and refugees were held in Australia’s locked immigration detention network (The remaining 1181 were mostly those whose visas had been cancelled on character grounds and are awaiting deportation).

Many of these people are recognised refugees to whom Australia owes protection - and they have no clear idea why they are being held when others have been released.  

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Submission: Modern Slavery

NSWCCL made a submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties Inquiry into the International Labour Organization Protocol of 2014 to Forced Labour Convention 1930 (No. 29).

We strongly support the ratification of this treaty; we also called for the adoption of this protocol so that its provisions become a part of domestic law. Rights with no remedy under Australian law are paper rights only - adoption is essential to ensure full protection for this vulnerable population.

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Letter: Strengthening the Character Test Bill

It now seems certain that, without opposition from the ALP, the Migration Act (Strengthening the Character Test) Amendment Bill will pass. We wrote to Kristina Keneally, the Shadow Minister for Immigration and Citizenship stressing that the issues with the bill, which the ALP had twice rejected, remain. We called on the ALP, if it wins government in the forthcoming election, to set up an inquiry into all the ‘god powers’ in the Migration Act, and into the sections concerned with asylum seekers and visa cancellation, with an eye to substantially redrafting the act.



Letter: the treatment of temporary migrants

Many migrant workers come to Australia to undertake work in order to send money home to support their families. These people’s visa conditions tie them each to a single sponsoring employer, such that if they leave those employers they lose their visas and have to return home.

A recent ABC podcast dealt with an investigation into some most unsatisfactory consequences of this arrangement.

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Time to review the Immigration Minister's ‘god-like powers’

Now that the dust has settled on the Djokovic saga, it’s time to consider the appropriateness of the Immigration Minister’s remarkable powers in relation to visas and how they are exercised.

This isn’t the first time individual visa interventions by the Minister have made the headlines: recall Peter Dutton’s controversial intervention to grant visas to two foreign au pairs in 2015, or the 2004 Phillip Ruddock “cash for visas” scandal, each of which led to a Senate Inquiry.

As Liberty Victoria’s 2017 report “Playing God” pointed out,  ‘the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection is granted the most personal discretion of any Minister by an overwhelming margin. More legislative provisions confer ‘public interest’ or ‘national interest’ discretions on him than on any other Minister … He or she has a power over individual lives, relatively unchecked by courts, that is greater than that of any other Minister, including the Prime Minister.’

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Media release: Politically motivated Bill is unnecessary & will punish refugees, victims of domestic violence

The Morrison Government is attempting to push the Strengthening the Character Test Bill through parliament for the fourth time; and it is resorting to political attacks in the attempt to do so. The Bill is unnecessary and will do harm. Despite what the Government is saying, the Bill has nothing whatsoever to do with serious offences.

This Bill:

  • Targets minor offenders.
  • Is totally unnecessary.
  • Will subject people who are of no danger to society to the rigours of indefinite detention, or deportation.
    There are no exceptions for children.
  • Will discourage people from reporting family violence, when they are financially dependent on the perpetrator.

More information: Read our media release


EGZ17 must not be sent back to Afghanistan

Remember the pseudonym EGZ17.

EGZ17 is the pseudonym of an ethnic Hazara Shia man, whom the Government, specifically Alex Hawke, wants to be able to send back to the Republic of Afghanistan. A decision that he could safely be returned to Kabul was made in 2017 by the Immigration Assessment Authority, before the Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan. The Government set about to deport him. After that takeover, he appealed the decision on the grounds that the newly named Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan was in effect a new country, and that the decision to deport EGZ17 was legally unreasonable. A judge of the Federal Court agreed.

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Submission: Ending Indefinite and Arbitrary Immigration Detention Bill 2021

NSWCCL has made a submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Migration Inquiry into the Ending Indefinite and Arbitrary Immigration Detention Bill 2021.

In our view, passing the Ending Indefinite and Arbitrary Immigration Detention Bill into law is morally and legally necessary. The Bill corrects the deviation from human rights and international norms in the course the government has taken in its treatment of refugees and unauthorised arrivals under the domestic legislative framework.

There are 1,513 people in immigration detention facilities, including 1,276 in immigration detention on the mainland and 237 people in immigration detention on Christmas Island. There are also 137 people effectively in detention on Nauru and another 145 people effectively in detention on Manus Island and PNG. The suffering of unauthorised entrants to this country under Australia’s system of indefinite mandatory detention is well documented. Indefinite detention is inhumane and cruel. Loss of liberty is one of the greatest punishments that humans bestow on each other. As a nation, we are guilty.

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Covid cases in Villawood Detention Centre

There are currently over 500 detainees in Villawood Immigration Detention Centre. Now that COVID has entered, they are all at risk.

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