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.

UNHCR slams Australia's approach

A Senate inquiry, which started in February, is examining the processing of family and partner reunion visas over concerns the system is being plagued by lengthy waiting times and exorbitant costs.

In a submission to this inquiry, The UNHCR slammed Australia and specifically pointed to the disproportionate impact of these challenges on refugees trying to bring family into Australia.

Read more

New direction puts vulnerable refugees at risk

A new Direction from the Minister for Immigration, governing how decision-makers must approach visa refusal and cancellation, creates serious risks for vulnerable people. Refugees could see their visas cancelled relying on Family Violence Orders that are then found to be unsubstantiated; minor children are at risk of being separated from their parents; and survivors of family violence may be deterred from seeking assistance.

The NSWCCL calls for the immediate replacement of Direction 90.

Read more

Urgent request: “legacy caseload” refugees

NSWCCL is asking its members, as a matter of urgency, to contact the Minister for Home Affairs, Karen Andrews, and/or the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs, Alex Hawke, asking for more time for members of the legacy caseload to submit updated applications for asylum, before their cases are heard.  

Read more

Statement: Fee increase on visa matters

25 February 2021 


Asylum seekers who are denied visas by Mr. Dutton, the Minister for Home Affairs, will now face fees of $3,330 to appeal to the Federal Circuit Court to have his decisions reviewed and overturned.  This is a clear, deliberate and unconscionable action by the Morrison Government to deny asylum seekers access to the Courts and to justice.  

Read more

Submission: Migration and Citizenship Legislation Amendment (Strengthening Information Provisions) Bill 2020

NSWCCL made a submission to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee Inquiry into the Migration and Citizenship Legislation Amendment (Strengthening Information Provisions) Bill 2020 [Provisions].

If passed, this bill would cripple the ability of litigants to have access to information that is critical for their cases for retaining a visa, becoming citizens or retaining their citizenship.

While it protects the constitutionally guaranteed powers of the High Court, the Federal Court and the Federal Circuit Court to know whatever information is relevant to their reviews of ministerial decisions, it would prevent other courts and other bodies from having such access. And vitally, it not only would allow what it defines as ‘Protected Information’ to be concealed from litigants and their counsel, it would allow them to be denied even the information that such information exists. In effect, only the Minister could use the information in court.

This is unacceptable. It is contrary to Australia’s international obligations. But most importantly, it is a severe intrusion on the rights of a person to a fair hearing. It overturns the basic legal principle of equality before the law.

More information: read our full submission


NSWCCL writes to Senators re filing fee increase for migration-related matters

NSWCCL wrote to ALP and Cross-bench Senators regarding the increase in filing fees in the Federal Circuit Court for migration-related matters. The fee will rise from $690.00 to $3,300.00. NSWCCL urged Senators to vote to disallow this instrument.

1 December 2020

Dear Senator,

Federal Court and Federal Circuit Court Amendment (Fees) Regulations 2020

On October 29 this year, the Government introduced a swingeing increase in filing fees in the Federal Circuit Court for migration-related matters. The fee will rise from $690.00 to $3,300.00 on January 1 next year.

The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties is deeply concerned by this change, as it will prevent many people from obtaining a review and reversal of unlawful, unjust, adverse decisions.  It will prevent others from being able to afford legal representation too, thus lessening their chances of having mistakes exposed.

Read more

Open letter to cross-bench Senators re Strengthening the Character Test Bill

Update 18 October 2021: with this legislation now listed for a second reading this week, we again wrote to all cross-bench senators reiterating our opposition to this bill and encouraging them to vote against it.


NSWCCL wrote to cross-bench Senators urging them to oppose the Strengthening the Character Test Bill.

1 December 2020

Dear Senator,

I am writing on behalf of the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties, asking you to vote against the Strengthening the Character Test Bill, when, and if, that returns to Parliament.

Despite what has been said in the Explanatory Memorandum, this bill is not about outlaw motorcycle gangs, murderers, people who commit serious assaults, sexual assault of aggravated burglary. People who are convicted of such crimes do not receive sentences of less than a year, unless their actual offences are minor—and if so, they are known not to be a danger to the community.  People who receive sentences of a year or more are dealt with by the existing legislation.


Read more

Policy: Visa cancellation on character grounds


Item 8.2        Policy on visa cancellation on character grounds.


Section 501 of the Migration Act enables the Minister for Home Affairs or his delegates to cancel the visa or to refuse a visa of any person who is decreed to have failed what is termed ‘the character test’.  The grounds on which this can be done are many:  they include inter alia serving a total of 12 months’ imprisonment; conviction for any offence, no matter how inconsequential, while in immigration detention; being a person who has been or is a member of a group or organisation, or has had or has an association with a group, organisation or person, and that group, organisation or person has been or is involved in criminal conduct; being a person whose criminal or general conduct is such that the person is not of good character; or having been ordered by a court to participate in a drug rehabilitation scheme.  If a court has found a person guilty of an offence against a child, or found a charge against the person proved for an offence against a child, whatever the penalty or  even if the person was discharged without a conviction, they fail the character test.  Persons can also be found to have failed the character test if there is only a risk that that they may engage in criminal conduct, vilify a section of the Australian community,  or incite discord in a section of that community.   Harassment, which is defined as including threats to the property of a person, also constitutes a failure of the character test.

Read more

Submission: Migration Amendment (Prohibiting Items in Detention Facilities) Bill 2020

The Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) thanks the Legal and Constitutional Committee (the Committee) for its invitation to make a submission concerning the Migration Amendment (Prohibiting Items in Immigration Detention Facilities) Bill 2020 (the bill). The bill is a modified version of a bill that was introduced in 2017 (the 2017 bill).

NSWCCL would like to speak further to these arguments when the bill is considered by the Committee.


This bill should be rejected.

If the bill is to proceed, it should limit the general power to search for and seize things to those which are intrinsically harmful, such as guns, knives and unprescribed narcotics. It should stipulate that items that do not present inherent risks to safety and security should only be prohibited to specified individuals where there is evidence that the person has used or is reasonably likely to use the item in a manner that presents clear risks to safety or security, and where those risks cannot be managed in a less restrictive way.

If the bill is to proceed, dogs should not be able to be used for searches in immigration detention centres.

View submission


NSWCCL writes to LEGCON Senators re Inquiry into Migration Amendment Bill 2020

NSWCCL has written to a number of Senators, members of the Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee, regarding the inquiry into the Migration Amendment (Prohibiting Items in Detention Facilities) Bill 2020

The Refugee Action Collective of Victoria (RACV) has proposed that the Legal and Constitutional Committee ask the Department of Home Affairs a large number of questions about matters of fact before they meet on July 3. 

Although the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties believes that there are strong grounds for rejecting the Bill outright that are for the most part independent of the matters that the RACV raises, we nevertheless urge you to do as the RACV requests.

Failure to present relevant facts until parliamentary committee hearings are underway, or by taking questions on notice, till after those hearings are complete, prevents transparency, and betrays a lack of commitment to democracy.

In addition to the question the RACV ask, NSWCCL requested the Senators to also ask:

How many landline telephones are available in each compound or separate section of each detention facility? For what hours are they available? And how many detainees are there in each of those facilities?

View the letter