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.


Djokovic could leave but many refugees cannot.

As the Djokovic saga ended, the media attention has moved on, but many asylum seekers and refugees remain in detention.

Some of these men have spent most of their teenage years detained by the Australian Government. NSWCCL continues to campaign for their release.

For one of their stories, view this video. 

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Six detainees in Villawood have COVID.

The Federal Government is responsible.

CCL, and numerous organisations have been warning the Morrison Government of the threat COVID-19 poses to those in detention. These include the Australian Human Rights Commission, the Commonwealth Ombudsman, the Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases and the Australasian College for Infection Prevention and Control.

Most have been urging the government to close immigration detention centres and release the detainees into the community, because of the risk of COVID-19 infection getting in.  The worry was, and is, that the conditions inside are such that if any detainee, or any guard for that matter, contracted the virus, it would spread quickly throughout the centre.

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Submission to Legal & Constitutional Affairs Committee re Migration Amendment (Strengthening the Character Test) Bill 2021

NSWCCL made a submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs Inquiry into the Migration Amendment (Strengthening the Character Test) Bill 2021 [Provisions].

This is the third time that such a bill has been presented to Parliament. We made an extensive submission to the 2019 version of this bill, and those criticisms stand.

Australia has moved from deporting people who clearly are a danger and high risk, such as unrehabilitated murderers, to deporting people because a minister cannot be sure that they are not a danger to the community.

In fact, it we now accept deporting people to their likely death:

'counsel for the Minister suggested that much had changed since Ali and that the Minister was now more than prepared to proceed on the basis that Australia would breach its non-refoulement obligations and return the appellant to Iraq, even though it had been accepted that he was likely to be harmed or killed there'1

Criticisms made by the Australian Human Rights Commission, the Australian Law Council, The Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, the Scrutiny of Bills Committee and the Visa Cancellations Working Group also still apply.

We are disappointed that the Bill has been reintroduced without those criticisms being answered. 

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Letter: Refugees' adopted son denied visa

In response to a story on ABC news we wrote to ask the Immigration Minister Alex Hawke why the adopted son of two recognised refugees from Afghanistan had not been granted a visa, when the couple and their natural children have been.

More information: Read our letter to Alex Hawke

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COVID & immigration detention: a disaster waiting to happen

A COVID out break inside immigration detention centres was a disaster waiting to happen. The Australian Government and Border Force cannot claim they had not been warned, nor that they had insufficient time to respond.

Civil rights organisations, including the NSWCCL have, for months, been bringing our concerns to the Minister and his Department, however our representations fell on deaf ears. 

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Letter: the Strengthening Information Provisions Bill

The Migration and Citizenship Legislation Amendment (Strengthening Information Provisions) Bill is one of the most pernicious bills ever to be presented to the Australian Parliament, which has been criticised by both the Joint Committee on Human Rights and the Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills.

Under this bill, information used by the Minister for Home Affairs to cancel a visa or to take away a person’s citizenship can be declared protected information, meaning the affected person would not be able to challenge this information. 

If the bill were to be passed:

  • People who have lived in Australia since infancy will be sent to countries where they know nobody and have no means of support. (This already happens).
  • People will have their visas cancelled, and be put in detention, possibly for many years. (This already happens too). Yet they will not be criminals and they will have no way to answer the accusations against them. 

The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties thinks that the bill is unjust, and should never have been brought to parliament. We wrote a letter to the Crossbench Senators urging them to vote against the bill.

More Information: read our letter to the Crossbench Senators

 

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Letter: The Strengthening the Character Test Bill

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties wrote to the Crossbench Senators urging them to vote against the reintroduced Migration Amendment (Strengthening the Character Test) Bill

If passed, this bill will further expand the grounds on which a person’s visa may be cancelled under section 501, especially on character grounds. This would include where a non-citizen has been convicted of a crime punishable by over two years’ imprisonment, regardless of when the person was actually sentenced to a term of imprisonment. This bill is a disproportionate response to visa holders who have committed minor crimes.

  1. This bill will subject people who are of no danger to society to the rigours of indefinite detention, or to being deported. Families will be split. There is no evidence that “the community” would want such outcomes.
  2. The bill would allow the Minister the discretion to cancel or refuse to issue a visa to a person who has been convicted of a designated offence but who may have received a very short sentence, or no sentence at all.
  3. The bill presupposes that careful decisions of the courts, made after proper process, input by experts and the experienced judgement of judges, are inferior to decisions made by the Minister with the aid of his Department. Sentences, after all, take account both of the seriousness of the crime and of the desirability of deterrence—both of the individual and of others. That is, they take into account the dangers to the community.
  4. The bill contains no exceptions for children.
  5. The bill ignores the processes of rehabilitation.
  6. A determination that a person fails the character test, depending on how it is made, means either that their visa must be, or may be, cancelled or refused. There right to merits review is available only in some cases. (The courts can only deal with errors of law.)

More information: read our letter to the Crossbench senators

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Torture in Villawood - and Ombudsman meetings

CCL has been concerned about the treatment in Immigration Detention Centres, and particularly in Villawood, of detainees who are put into quarantine for fourteen days when they return from medical or dental appointments outside of the centres. 

Now The Saturday Paper reports that a detainee who was identified as a contact of a guard at Villawood who contracted COVID-19 has similarly been put into isolation in a room with no view outside and minimal furniture. Even worse, this time the light has been left on all night. This, as he complains, is a recognised form of torture.  

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It's not too late to release refugees over COVID concerns

In the light of news that at least one guard has tested positive, NSWCCL is renewing its calls for refugees to be released from detention immediately.

Last week news broke that a guard at the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation (MITA),  had tested positive for COVID-19 — the Delta variant.  MITA is one of the larger detention centres for asylum seekers and non-citizens who have had their visas cancelled under the character test provisions of the Migration Act.  

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Detainees in 'punishment cell conditions' for quarantine

NSWCCL is increasingly concerned about the impact on detainees in our immigration detention facilities of current quarantine arrangements. In particular, the treatment of people who return to detention centres after medical appointments is unacceptable.

  • They are confined in small rooms for a fortnight.
  • There is nothing in the room except a bed, an open toilet and a wash basin.
  • The windows are tinted, so detainees cannot see out.
  • There is no access to personal possessions.
  • No reading material is available - not even a Bible, Torah or Koran.
  • There's no exercise outside of the room.
  • A change of under clothes may not be available for several days. 
  • There is a buzzer to call for attention, but people may have to wait for a lengthy period for a response. 
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