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.

Submission: Review of the Migration Amendment (Clarifying International Obligations for Removal) Act 2021

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties (‘NSWCCL’) welcomes the opportunity to make a submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security regarding its review of the operation, effectiveness and implications of the amendments made to the Migration Act 1958 (Cth) (‘Migration Act’) by Schedule 1 of the Migration Amendment (Clarifying International Obligations for Removal) Act 2021 (Cth) (‘Clarifying Act’).

The Clarifying Act claims to support Australia’s international non-refoulement obligations by amending the Migration Act to clarify that it does not require or authorise the removal of a person who is deemed an unlawful non-citizen and for whom a protection finding has been made through the protection visa process.

However, NSWCCL is deeply concerned that by operation and effect, the Clarifying Act subjects a person captured by the laws to ongoing mandatory immigration detention, without any time limit or safeguards to prevent prolonged or indefinite detention.

Read more

Submission: Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee in regard to the Migration Amendment (Evacuation to Safety) Bill 2023.

Update: 9 March 2023 Yesterday Labor the Australian Labor Party joined with the Liberals to vote against the Greens' legislation to evacuate refugees and people seeking asylum from Nauru and PNG to safety in Australia. This is a devastating blow for the 150 people still trapped in limbo. NSWCCL condemn the Labor Party for betraying refugees and people seeking asylum.

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties, civil society and human rights organisations welcome the introduction of the Migration Amendment Evacuation to Safety Bill 2023 in the Senate. This Bill is required to urgently resolve the situation of those refugees and asylum seekers still living in Papua New Guinea and Nauru. Australian asylum seeker policy is a gross breach of human rights and decency. It is inconsistent with its obligations under international law.

The Bill offers the chance to reform the law to bring Australia’s immigration policies in line with our international obligations under the Refugee Convention, by bringing all refugees and people seeking asylum to Australia while determinations are made about durable solutions.

Read more

NSWCCL Statement: UN torture prevention body terminates visit to Australia

The UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) has been forced to terminate its suspended visit to Australia signalling to the international community that Australia is shamefully failing in its obligations under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Prevention of Torture (OPCAT).  The NSW Council for Civil Liberties call on all Australian governments to prioritise the implementation of the OPCAT and to meet our obligations to the people held in detention.

In compliance with obligations under the OPCAT, Australia must execute two simple functions for the establishment of the principles of the OPCAT into law. First, to set up, designate and maintain a network of Commonwealth, state and territory inspectorates (each referred to as NPM Bodies) responsible for inspecting and making recommendations about places of detention within their jurisdiction. Second, to facilitate visits to Australia, including to places of detention under Australia's jurisdiction and control, by the SPT. NSW has yet to nominate an NPM Coordinator or implement the OPCAT into law.

Read more

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.

Read more

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.  

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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.’

Read more

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