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Australia’s global reputation at stake in High Court asylum case

The Australian government gave an undertaking to the High Court on Wednesday that it would not surrender or deliver the asylum seekers detained on an Australian customs vessel on the high seas to Sri Lankan…

In its asylum policy, Australia takes advantage of the fact that international law is not automatically absorbed into its domestic legal system. AAP/Lukas Coch

The Australian government gave an undertaking to the High Court on Wednesday that it would not surrender or deliver the asylum seekers detained on an Australian customs vessel on the high seas to Sri Lankan military custody without 72 hours written notice. However, the government also emphasised its commitment to secrecy in the pursuit of its military-led Operation Sovereign Borders.

At the hearing, High Court Justice Susan Crennan heard emergency submissions from lawyers representing 48 of the 153 Sri Lankan Tamil asylum seekers.

Ron Merkel QC, on behalf of the asylum seekers, said it was clear that the government planned to imminently return, “involuntarily and by coercion”, these people – including a reported 37 children – to Sri Lankan authorities. This return of potential refugees to the place where they fear persecution would breach Australia’s non-refoulement obligations under the UN Refugee Convention.

Lawyers have not been able to communicate with the asylum seekers, or determine what processes they have been subjected to.

The UN Human Rights Council is investigating reports of war crimes committed by the Sri Lankan authorities during the recent civil war. Australia did not support the Human Rights Council’s resolution. Other states to oppose the decision included China, Iran and Zimbabwe.

Amnesty International, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the US State Department have confirmed that Tamils continue to face persecution, including sexual violence and torture, at the hands of Sri Lankan authorities. Human Rights Watch has also documented the widespread problem of mistreatment and torture inside Sri Lankan detention facilities.

Historically, according to Merkel in argument before the High Court:

90% of Sri Lankan boat arrivals to Australia have been found to be refugees.

The Australian government argues that the boat in question was intercepted outside Australian territorial waters, and as such its occupants are outside the Migration Act’s jurisdiction.

Australia is currently the target of negative international commentary on its recent decision to return 41 Sinhalese and Tamil asylum seekers to Sri Lankan authorities. While nine children have been released without charge, the 32 adults on the ship, who had tried to reach Australia by boat, now face criminal charges in Sri Lanka for leaving without authorisation.

Their expedited immigration processing involved teleconferences on the high seas, during which asylum seekers were asked only four questions. Refugee Council of Australia president Phil Glendenning condemned this process as lacking procedural fairness:

It’s stripped back to ensure it is almost impossible for people whose protection claims need further examination to receive a fair hearing.

In 2010, the Australian government argued that its officials were not bound to apply procedural fairness in conducting offshore assessments of asylum claims. The High Court found against the government, and determined that it is bound to apply the Migration Act and its guarantees of procedural fairness when considering claims for protection.

Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs argued yesterday that Australia’s corresponding obligations under international law require the option of independent and impartial review, should claimants receive a negative assessment.

Instead, 41 asylum seekers have been handed over to the Sri Lankan authorities without access to review, and at potential risk to their wellbeing. Australia’s Migration Act was passed in 1958 in part as a means of incorporating our obligations under the Refugee Convention into domestic law. Australia is also party to the UN Convention Against Torture and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both of which prohibit refoulement.

The applicants in the current High Court case are expected to seek orders preventing their transfer to offshore immigration detention on Manus Island or Nauru. More broadly, lawyers for the asylum seekers will argue that the jurisprudence of the High Court, building on the Federal Court’s decision in the Tampa case, would not authorise detention for the purpose of:

… removal to a country in respect of which the protection of non-refoulement is being claimed.

Australia’s self-perception as a responsible member of the international community is called into question by its treatment of these particularly vulnerable people. Australia takes advantage of the fact that international law is not automatically absorbed into its domestic legal system. Australia advocates for human rights standards at the international level, yet is highly selective in the incorporation of those standards in domestic legislation and policy.


This piece was amended on July 14 to correct Australia’s stance on the UN Human Rights Council’s resolution on Sri Lanka.

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90 Comments sorted by

  1. grant moule

    Consultant

    Tony Abbott is lowering Australia's reputation on many fronts, others include the Environment, equality, persuing science and our economy.

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  2. R. Ambrose Raven

    none

    I'll keep saying it; it seems worth saying. Haters play on our fear of endless waves of refugees. In fact, we could handle any conceivable number. For non-haters, here's how.

    Vocational education and training relevant to Third World countries is an obvious one (recognising that we've tried hard to avoid doing so regarding Aboriginal Australia). Foreign aid cuts of $7.6 billion over the next five years planned by the Abbott misgovernment demonstrates its contempt for such programmes. Startup support…

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    1. Account Deleted

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to R. Ambrose Raven

      A couple of thoughts, Ambrose. Exactly how would we manage "any conceivable" number?

      "Vocational education and training relevant to Third World countries is an obvious one" Unfortunately, we are not a third world country.

      "We could even train asylum-seekers in a highly portable profession such as nursing, on condition that they leave Australia once their training was finished" Huh? We spend millions training people we are paying to leave?

      "Costs of illegally stopping the boats". Well, we are not "illegally" stopping the boats, and by doing so, we are saving tens of millions in costs of detention. Money diverted from NBN, NDIS, and care for the aged. We actually can afford the cost of "stopping the boats".

      The tedious repetition of 'hate' is not an argument, nor does it buttress your own pathetic arguments based on hate.

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    2. R. Ambrose Raven

      none

      In reply to Account Deleted

      But yours are based on denial and contempt, which hardly seems better.

      You don't even comprehend my points. One was that your mate Border Generalissimo-MP Morrison is spending $3,500 million a year on Fortress Australia - yet you write of "saving tens of millions in costs of detention". Detention would be far cheaper. Not better, just cheaper.

      Another, why not spend millions training people we are paying to leave? Instead of wasting money on aid, it will go to the most portable asset of all…

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    3. Peter Hindrup

      consultant

      In reply to Account Deleted

      ' Unfortunately, we are not a third world country.'

      No, and with Abbott's mob in charge the chances of reaching that exalted status are none.

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  3. Phillip Chalmers

    Doctor at Private and Hospital medicine

    I thought the chattering classes had abandoned the cultural cringe and were just getting on with it.
    Wrong.
    Shame, shame, shame. We might appear to be something to some other people - so what?

    Australia is full. The continent cannot sustain its present population without species loss, soil degradation and immense cultural change.
    True, we could dam every river and creek, terrace every slope, live on rice and potatoes with a bit of protein and support as many people as China does now. Then where do we expand to?
    Current conditions seem to confine dialogue about this dilemma to a small number of aware and interested parties - I despair of getting it into the arena of serious public debate and political will and political power.

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    1. Grendelus Malleolus

      Senior Nerd

      In reply to Phillip Chalmers

      "Australia is full. The continent cannot sustain its present population without species loss, soil degradation and immense cultural change."

      You have a source for this bold claim I hope?

      Species loss is ongoing and has accelerated as thoughtless development occurs, Soil degradation can be mitigated by better practices around water courses and as for cultural change - when was the last time we were culturally static - and was that very much fun?

      I don't think anyone buys a strawman argument that we should support a much vaster population, but we could happily top out at around 30 million with very little disruption and in fact reinvigorate some interior communities.

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    2. Amy Maguire

      Lecturer in International Law at University of Newcastle

      In reply to Phillip Chalmers

      'We might appear to be something to some other people - so what?'

      Australia ought to, and does, care about what other states and international organisations think about us. If we did not, we may have found ourselves in the North Korean 'rogue state' category. Instead, we engage with the rules and institutions of international law on many fronts to further our interests, and the interests we share with regional and global neighbours. Beyond interests, many of the people of Australia and many of our elected representatives are committed to our international legal obligations because we believe these obligations are just, worthwhile and appropriate.

      In any case, how we currently appear to other members of the international community pales in comparison to how we must appear to the 153 unfortunate souls we are currently detaining on the high seas. These people have committed no crime and are entitled to exercise their rights as human beings to seek protection from persecution.

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    3. Trevor S

      Jack of all Trades

      In reply to Phillip Chalmers

      "Australia is full. The continent cannot sustain its present population without species loss, soil degradation and immense cultural change."

      and ? Population is like CO2e emissions, a global issue. Locking the door and saying "nah, nah, nah, nah" won't solve anything.

      For example:

      http://www.uow.edu.au/~sharonb/STS300/limits/studies/population.html#capacity

      "While immigration can exacerbate environmental problems, strong curbs on immigration by themselves will do little to restore Australian…

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    4. Account Deleted

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Grendelus Malleolus

      The unfortunate fact is that, on present projections, we will reach over 45 million by the middle of the century, with no indications of any slowing of the growth rate.

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    5. Account Deleted

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Trevor S

      "I struggle with assigning anyone the right to say to another human you can live here, you can not"

      Do you? Do you live in an apartment, or your own home? I doubt your door is open to anyone, even though it is "repugnant for it's connotations of selfishness at worst."

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    6. alan w. shorter

      research assistant

      In reply to Amy Maguire

      Amy, sorry, while I loathe this government, and this whole appalling incident, you have provided no evidence about "Australia's global reputation" apart from a couple of practically anonymous junior newspaper reporters and a couple of advocacy groups. Who cares about their opinion?

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    7. alan w. shorter

      research assistant

      In reply to Amy Maguire

      The only US commentary was a short piece in the NYT. But who cares what Americans think of our immigration/border policies. The US has been turning boats back to Cuba and Haiti for nearly 20 years now, charmingly known as the *Wet Feet, Dry Feet Policy*!

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    8. Account Deleted

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Grendelus Malleolus

      "You have a source for this bold claim I hope?"

      'This tired brown land' 1998 by Mark O'Connor

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    9. Account Deleted

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Grendelus Malleolus

      ...and, dear boy, exactly how and why do you think we are going to "top out"?

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    10. Amy Maguire

      Lecturer in International Law at University of Newcastle

      In reply to alan w. shorter

      Thanks for your comments, Alan.

      Perhaps the easiest way to demonstrate that our global reputation is threatened is to look first to our own statements through official government channels. For example, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website affirms Australia's commitment to the United Nations, international cooperation to promote peace and security, human rights, Indigenous peoples' rights and gender equality, among other values. DFAT notes our adoption of key human rights treaties…

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    11. foibles58

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Phillip Chalmers

      what of our international obligations to those in need - regardless of "full" sign - should we remove our signatures so that we "put our money where our mouth is" and no longer need to support such obligations?

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    12. alan w. shorter

      research assistant

      In reply to Amy Maguire

      Fair enough Amy. I admire your passion, and you are fighting the good fight. I guess I just don't see "international law" instruments as all that legitimate on their own. The Soviet Union actually legislated the ICCPR and the ICESC into its own Constitution, as has South Africa! So I guess you and I differ on what the real issues are here. For you, it is about international instruments drafted, and voted on, by questionably legitimate (from a democratic perspective), backroom interest groups, then…

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    13. Mike Brisco

      Scientist at Flinders University of South Australia

      In reply to Phillip Chalmers

      Australia is full -- so logically the first target would be business migration, since that is desirable (desired by some only) , but not essential, either to the migrant, or their sponsor.

      Business migration, currently running at 200,000 a year? and no public discussion on whether that number is appropriate. .

      The accommodation of a few thousand people in desperate need, with nowhere else to go - there is a much stronger case for - if resources are limited.

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    14. Bert Williams

      Old

      In reply to Phillip Chalmers

      Australia is full. The continent cannot sustain its present population without species loss, soil degradation and immense cultural change.
      The world is full. The world cannot sustain its present population without species loss, soil degradation and immense cultural change.

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    15. John Harland

      bicycle technician

      In reply to Phillip Chalmers

      Australia is straining its ecological resources but that is not seen as a reason to encourage a lowering of the birthrate, reducing "legal" immigration, pinching fewer "skilled migrants" trained at the expense of their country of origin, reducing the rate of resource use per person, or any of many of the other tools we have for reducing our collective ecological impact.

      Instead of blackbirding Skilled Migrants, we could be accepting refugees and training them. Not only because many refugees make…

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    16. Grendelus Malleolus

      Senior Nerd

      In reply to Account Deleted

      Because population growth can be controlled - you determine an optimal level and shape policy to fit. At present the process is entirely arbitrary and not evidence based.

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    17. Grendelus Malleolus

      Senior Nerd

      In reply to Nicholas Orford

      Sure, he is one source - and from memory advocates a population less than half of what we currently have. But also from memory this ideal was based on existing activity, whereas what would be likely under a population of 30m would have to be planned with sustainability as a key consideration. The reality is that Australia, while an independent country, exists within a broader world where pressure to move from one place to another is a daily fact for millions of people. As global citizens do we abrogate our responsibility to others?

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    18. Ian Rudd
      Ian Rudd is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Retired accountant & unapologetic dissident

      In reply to Phillip Chalmers

      Presumably by full you mean not open to ANY class of migrant and not specially selected ones of the type you might not approve of.
      If this is what you do mean you should make that point clear otherwise you run the risk of being labelled as a hater like the rest of these people.

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  4. Ben Marshall
    Ben Marshall is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Writer

    I think it's fair to say the Coalition have no interest in any of this discussion.

    Their actions show they're playing to a domestic audience, an approach that, with the help of the shock jocks and the Murdoch family, is working extremely well. Australians have been convinced by the big lie: to stop deaths at sea, and Australia from being overrun by illegal queue-jumpers, we must stop the boats at any cost. For most Aussies, that's as far as they want to think, despite what seems like an endless…

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    1. Amy Maguire

      Lecturer in International Law at University of Newcastle

      In reply to Ben Marshall

      Thanks for your comment, Mr Marshall. I agree that Australia has options other than the policies currently being pursued. These include cooperative regional solutions, and need not risk a massive influx of asylum seekers into Australia. As Mr Raven notes in these comments, Australia could redirect and even reduce its current expenditure in this area by pursuing alternatives to military-led interceptions of boats and mandatory offshore detention of asylum seekers. I also agree that the current government…

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    2. Ben Marshall
      Ben Marshall is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Writer

      In reply to Amy Maguire

      Hi Amy,

      Thanks for your reply.

      In conversations on this topic, I frequently point out to those who basically think the Coalition are doing a good job on this issue, that the one group of voices missing in any discussion are those of the asylum seekers themselves.

      Unfortunately, the sites I have bookmarked to point them to, contain stories that are heavily edited and some years old.

      I'd be grateful for any suggestions of links you might have that we can share, now and in future, for Australians to go to and hear the stories of those who crowd those tiny boats, and whose future is so bleak, they consider getting on them.

      Many thanks for your post too, btw.

      Cheers.

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    3. Amy Maguire

      Lecturer in International Law at University of Newcastle

      In reply to Ben Marshall

      Thanks, Ben. I would hope that people who may not have engaged deeply with this issue before would be compelled to do so when confronted with the harrowing experiences of those who have sought protection. Some personal accounts of refugee experiences are available through the Refugee Council website:

      http://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/r/pro-ind.php

      In such a complex and volatile area of regulation, I understand that many people may not feel able to make their stories public.

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    4. Account Deleted

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Amy Maguire

      Dear Amy,

      A list of fanciful and nonsensical arguments is not particularly useful. Exactly what ARE the "alternatives to military-led interceptions of boats and mandatory offshore detention of asylum seekers"?

      If you have no suggestions, then why bother listening to your complaints about people who are at least attempting to cope with the problem?

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    5. Ben Slee

      Architect at Slee & Co Design Studio / University of Sydney

      In reply to Ben Marshall

      Thank you for this refreshingly balanced correspondence. Ben Marshall and Ambrose Raven make some interesting and imaginative points.

      I wonder if Amy is able to comment on the legality of stopping, detaining and then "redirecting" people who are traveling by boat in international waters?I have always been under the impression that people are free to travel through international waters without interference and that interference is also called piracy. If this is the case can the government be charged with piracy? It would certainly be interesting!

      Australia may or may not be full. However unarmed children in wooden boats are not a national security issue. Several thousand refugees is not a refugee crisis.

      Uganda, Kenya, Turkey and possibly the United States are all countries with genuine refugee and illegal immigration problems. Australia is not.

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    6. Amy Maguire

      Lecturer in International Law at University of Newcastle

      In reply to Ben Slee

      Thanks for your comment, Ben. I agree that Australia's 'refugee problem', when put in context of other countries in the world, is small. Unfortunately, as a political issue, it has become enormous.

      As to your comment regarding the legality of detaining people in international waters, I believe in this case that the government has taken people on board a customs vessel because their boat was at risk of sinking. Indeed, a refugee advocate in Australia was in contact with people on the boat and subsequently alerted Australian authorities to the risk they were facing. As far as I understand, Australia does not apprehend boats carrying asylum seekers wherever they may be found, and does apply some standards in terms of Australia's maritime zone. However, the military-style secrecy of Operation Sovereign Borders makes it very difficult for Australia's practices to be assessed against international legal provisions.

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    7. alan w. shorter

      research assistant

      In reply to Ben Slee

      "Uganda, Kenya, Turkey and possibly the United States are all countries with genuine refugee and illegal immigration problems. Australia is not."
      I dare say that Australians have probably seen the results of Uganda, Kenya, Turkey and possibly the United States, and have decided, "No thanks."

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    8. alan w. shorter

      research assistant

      In reply to Amy Maguire

      To be fair, the legal standards Operation Sovereign Borders must defer to are AUSTRALIAN standards - as contained in The Migration Act and Maritime Powers Act.

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    9. David Maddern

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Account Deleted

      Robert I suggest you look up The Greens policy on Assylum Seekers for a lot cheaper solution than 4Bn spent on companies to keep out and deter some thousands of Assylum seekers that test our shores.

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    10. Mike Brisco

      Scientist at Flinders University of South Australia

      In reply to Account Deleted

      Exactly what ARE the "alternatives to military-led interceptions of boats and mandatory offshore detention of asylum seekers"?

      Shall I list them?

      Military-led escort of boats, and housing them in the community - as is done with several thousand air asylum seekers every year

      decent offshore processing in Indonesia, Austraial DIAC office there. people eligible get airlifted in. Recommended by the expert panel on asylum seekers in 2012.

      Military-led safety escorts of boats into harbour

      Robert Ashman, there are in fact plenty of alternatives. You may not like them yourself - but they are alternatives nonetheless, and they have worked.

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    11. Mike Brisco

      Scientist at Flinders University of South Australia

      In reply to alan w. shorter

      Which 'results' do you mean, that happened in Kenya and Turkey and Uganda, which the Austrlaians are aware of and use as evidence against accepting refugees here?

      And re the US - are people crossing in are 90% refugees as those crossing to Australia are? If they are not, then whatever problems are in the US, they cannot be attributed to refugee arrivals.

      Also Lebanon - population 3 million, its people currently hosting a million Syrians.

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    12. Mike Brisco

      Scientist at Flinders University of South Australia

      In reply to Ben Marshall

      Fair point, Ben. Through volunteer work I have over the years met asylum seekers, so heard some stories.

      And I agree with you: most media discussion, is based on ignorance. Often I respond by telling what people have told me from their own lives, E.g reasons why they had to leave. [Identifying details removed and anonymized of course.] And often, simply doing that, is enough to show the other's position is false.

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  5. Colin MacGillivray

    Architect, retired, Sarawak

    The people in the boats are “unauthorised maritime arrivals”.
    From the number who have arrived in, say, the last 3 years, how many are confirmed to be asylum seekers and how many are not?
    Is it more than 50%?
    There must be records somewhere.

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    1. Ben Marshall
      Ben Marshall is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Writer

      In reply to Colin MacGillivray

      Hi Colin,

      here's a few of aggregated stats from government sources:

      http://www.glennmurray.com.au/australia-boat-people-illegal-policy/

      http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2013/jul/02/australia-asylum-seekers

      http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-02-24/liberal-mp-kelly-odwyer-incorrect-on-australias-refugee-intake/5270252

      The most common stat re. confirmed refugees amongst asylum seekers is around the 90% mark. I hope what I've provided here helps you out.

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    2. Amy Maguire

      Lecturer in International Law at University of Newcastle

      In reply to Colin MacGillivray

      Thanks for your comment, Colin. 'Unauthorised maritime arrivals' is a term of art used in Australian domestic law, as part of a strategy to depict the act of seeking asylum as illegal. You will also have heard government officials use the term 'unlawful'. Under international law, if a person leaves their home country to seek protection as a refugee, they are an asylum seeker. The act of seeking asylum is protected by a number of the central human rights covenants, all of which Australia is a party…

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    3. Account Deleted

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Ben Marshall

      The 90% figure is rot. Poor screening, and an extremely liberal review tribunal. Nowhere near objective figures from overseas.

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    4. Ben Marshall
      Ben Marshall is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Writer

      In reply to Account Deleted

      Hi Robert,

      It's reasonable to be sceptical. The widely used 90% figure may well be inaccurate. But getting accurate information from our government at this time has been made virtually impossible - we have militarised the issue to shield our activities and keep our government, and the military forces it issues orders to, out of sight and unaccountable. The reason given for this, that to do otherwise is to inform the 'people smugglers', is political spin. This is not how a democracy should be…

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    5. Colin MacGillivray

      Architect, retired, Sarawak

      In reply to Ben Marshall

      Ben
      Thanks. That Glenn Murray site is brilliant. Just what I needed to read. The inferences are clear- most of the boat people are granted the right to stay in Australia. So the inference is that Abbott team are pandering to their voters who don't know the truth, and are blinkered against migrants anyway. And Labour don't have the guts to recite the Glenn Murray statistics to voters.
      There still needs to be a solution to avoid people coming to Australia in crappy little boats.

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    6. Steven Fuller

      Asset Management

      In reply to Account Deleted

      Are you suggesting the immigration department are incompetent? You had best supply some evidence to counteract all available information provided by the (current) government.

      Your hopes that all asylum seekers are not genuine and proven to be the terrorists in diguise they certainly are in your ind does not make it so.

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    7. Mike Brisco

      Scientist at Flinders University of South Australia

      In reply to Account Deleted

      Robert Ashman, the figure of 90% is from the authorities, whom government tasks, to make such determinations. These people follow Australian rules and Australian law. The system is adversarial, in that the onus is on the applicant (as with all visas) to make out their case - which DIAC then subject to independent verification.

      given the above, the figure is realiable as any other migration statistic, and those other statistics are generally accepted.

      Your comment 'the 90% figure is rot' is not based on evidence. It is rather opinion, but you state it as an objective fact.

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    8. Anna Young

      Project Manager

      In reply to Account Deleted

      Could you provide some references that support your assertion that the 90% figure is incorrect or a result of flawed systems rather than genuine need?

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  6. Hassan el-Muhammed

    logged in via email @gmail.com

    "Their expedited immigration processing involved teleconferences on the high seas, during which asylum seekers were asked only four questions."

    Given one of those four questions was why you left Sri Lanka, and the answers were, as reported by the independent Fairfax Media, to get a job with no mention of being an asylum seeker, it would be understable that these persons are illegal economic aliens.

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    1. Amy Maguire

      Lecturer in International Law at University of Newcastle

      In reply to Hassan el-Muhammed

      It is impossible for us to ascertain what process is being followed during expedited teleconference interviews held with asylum seekers detained on the high seas. Along with the risk that their answers are affected by anxiety, due to the conditions in which they are being held, it is possible that there are language barriers which may prevent people from giving responses that indicate a genuine fear of persecution. It is clear that these people have no access to legal advice.

      Of course, if people are found after a fair process to have no valid claim to protection, Australia is entitled to refuse them visas. Even in that case, the people themselves are not 'illegal'.

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    2. Steven Fuller

      Asset Management

      In reply to Hassan el-Muhammed

      If you are going to use hearsay as evidence, please at least provide the complete context. This was reported based on a journalist's "tweet" during proceedings in the Sri Lankan court where those were reasonably suspected of being under duress.

      That is irrelevant anyway, "expedited immigration processing involved teleconferences on the high seas, during which asylum seekers were asked only four questions" does not fulfill our obligations under the international treaties we are signatories to. If…

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    3. Mike Brisco

      Scientist at Flinders University of South Australia

      In reply to Hassan el-Muhammed

      Hassan - if you talk to asylum seekers, most say they hope to get a job. That fact is irrelevant to their grounds for asylum.

      Grounds for asylum are a well founded fear of persecution.

      btw you used the word "illegal": to describe them. if you think what they do breaks the law - please post which law, they break? No one else seems to know... and better minds than mine, believe seeking asylum is entirely legal. .

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    4. Anna Young

      Project Manager

      In reply to Hassan el-Muhammed

      So given the extreme levels of secrecy, sorry security, around Operation Sovereign Borders, how did the media get the asylum seekers' answers to questions being asked as part of an assessment of their cases? (An assessment one would assume to be relatively confidential given the nature of the topic, not to mention the security-level of the Operation.)

      Anyone else smell a big fat rat?

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  7. Nicholas Orford

    logged in via email @hotmail.com

    "Australia’s global reputation at stake in High Court asylum case". Yes, it is. If we are seen to be weak on protection of our borders we will be in real trouble. Thats not hate mongering. It's fact. I cant help wondering whats in it for all these lawyers clambering for attention. In my experience lawyers do nothing for nothing. As for the united nations, who are they? Look at the nations involved and thier human rights record. Australia has a human rights record way above most of them. Help Sri Lanka and others become democratic. Thats the best way to help people.

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    1. Steven Fuller

      Asset Management

      In reply to Nicholas Orford

      Perhaps, unlike the fearful conservatives, there are certain lawyers that have a conscience. Your generalised stereotyping of all lawyers, who are merely all different people performing a certain profession shows your narrow viewpoint. If all lawyers are such, it is not a stretch to imagine all asylum seekers are rich immigrants looking to take our welfare, jobs and way of life from us. That is the ones that aren't terrorists.

      Which human rights records are you talking about? Our historical and current treatment of indigenous people or our treatment of asylum seekers? Both are frowned upon in the international community. Irrelevant anyway, what we do now is what matters, not past mistakes. We should simply acknowledge and learn from those.

      I know many lawyers that completely contradict your narrow view of them. There is also much information on the UN available online if you are unsure and have questions of "who are they?".

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    2. Mike Brisco

      Scientist at Flinders University of South Australia

      In reply to Nicholas Orford

      So the 1990s -- I remember when refugee boats could just sail up to the Australian coast e.g Newcastle, people disembark, and get a bus into town or thumb a lift. They were then temporarily detained, but soon let out.

      That was weak border protection, Australian media reported this, but I do not recall Australia getting into any trouble from asylum seekers. Which contradicts your argument re strong borders being necessary etc. Also australia was a friendlier place; people not so mean-hearted as they are now.

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    3. Anna Young

      Project Manager

      In reply to Nicholas Orford

      Acutally, Australia has long been criticised for human rights abuses against Aboriginal Australians.

      The actions against asylum seekers of the last decade are just another black mark against our record.

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  8. Anneliese Ford

    Senior Consultant

    'The UN Human Rights Council is investigating reports of war crimes committed by the Sri Lankan authorities during the recent civil war. Australia, along with China and Iran, voted against the Human Rights Council’s decision to open this investigation.' We voted along with China and Iran, other mires of human rights abuses. Says it all really.

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  9. Alan Herath

    Retired

    In parallel with the necessity for world wide agreement on a method to successfully moderate climate change, a more focused worldwide solution is needed on refugees. Having read that there are millions of people in transition and in camps around the world (is it 4, 5 or 6 million?) it seems obvious to me that more effective UN arrangements/initiatives are needed at the source of discontent and mal treatment. Who apart from World Vision and the like are trying to achieve a better life for people in parts of Africa and elsewhere, and where people have been living in camp situations for up to 10 years plus. If we can potentially achieve world agreement on an appropriate method to moderate climate change shouldn't we not try to do this for those presently living in misery?

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  10. David Barrett

    Photographer at Inspired by the Landscape

    If the government takes a less hard/callous line to protect Australia's reputation and that's their only motivation?

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  11. Tony Simons

    Director at Bedlam Bay Pty Ltd

    Another shameful Morrison / Abbott action exposed is the virtual freezing of asylum seeker processing in all the detention centres. This again shows the hypocrisy of the enhanced interviewing. "Enhanced" is a very unfortunate term following criminal torturer George W Bus's "enhanced interrogation techniques".

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  12. Jack Ruffin
    Jack Ruffin is a Friend of The Conversation.

    logged in via email @hotmail.com

    If we step back from all the hype forget, the politicians and all the labels, put to one side our worries about some imaginary flood of people and ditch the slogans, then we could take a deep, calm breath and take a relaxed view of all this.
    Australia is not under attack. We are not facing invasion. We do not have to protect our borders. They are not being threatened. The people who flee their countries are no more dangerous than we are. We all want a peaceful life for ourselves and our families…

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  13. David Howard

    Home Duties

    On the general point of immigration, I have always been of the opinion that significant social issues could arise where too great a percentage of a nation holds potential allegiance to another nation. Without any real scientific evidence I have felt that 50% of the population should be second generation, 25% first generation and 25% born overseas. When I have looked back, at figures, this has been Australia's profile.

    On the issue of the 41 returned. The UN convention holds that people can be returned…

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  14. George Arzey

    Veterinary consultant

    Whether one agrees or disagrees with the current policy and its execution, it is obvious that it is designed primarily to deter asylum seekers arriving at our shores. The overarching moral question is whether the end justifies the means? Whether stopping the boats is a goal that justifies any policy and any measure?

    Are asylum seekers currently in detention centers overseas, on custom vessels at sea human beings or just a tool to manipulate and deter others?

    Once a nation accepts that the end justifies the means, morality becomes irrelevant and the slippery slop race to the bottom of the cesspit is in full swing -. an Herculean marathon between the opposition and the Government as to who can come up with more effective deterrents.

    The High Court will address the legal aspects but who will address the morality of our current policies?

    Our international reputation is indeed important but not less important is our ability to feel good about ourselves.

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  15. Ian Carter

    Retired Cameraman/Photographer

    Before anyone can put themselves forward for election to public office they should have to submit to Psychological evaluation, sit for exams on Australian History, Social and general knowledge, basic economics and write a summary of their understanding of key words like; fairness, compassion, equality, sharing, caring, sincerity, humane, truth, justice, poverty, responsibility, science (add your own, you get the idea.) I'd suggest that most of the current "serving" LNP would have failed miserably.

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    1. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to John Phillip

      Ian, what on earth has your opinion of people of a particular political party got to do with the problem at hand? It's easy to vilify a group that disagrees with your view because it means that you avoid having to actually argue the point. That same sort of god guys/bad guys polemic can be equally applied to the 'other' side. Doing so gets us nowhere.

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    2. Janice Russell

      retired

      In reply to Ian Carter

      Like that idea, LNP definitely fail miserably but so do a lot of others, ie the shock jocks who push the LNP agenda at the unthinking mobs who believe every word that comes from their mouths without considering how stupid these agendas really are

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  16. Tony Simons

    Director at Bedlam Bay Pty Ltd

    The indefinite holding of 153 people plus the refoulement of 41 others ranks with the non investigation of the burns victim on a navy ship as the actions of a dictatorship. The burns victims have never been interviewed and the murderer of the Iranian on Manus never apprehended with Stop Morrison in no hurry to get to the truth and inform the public. The fascist Abbott government which refuses all accountability is a complete disgrace.

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    1. Janice Russell

      retired

      In reply to John Phillip

      these days fascism means a totalitarian right-wing govt that keeps secret many of its policies and expects no one to try to bring them to account in any way, very similar to left-wing totalitarian govts in the effect it has on its citizens. They are treated like dirt and most vulnerable suffer most. LNP a great example

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    2. Janice Russell

      retired

      In reply to Tony Simons

      The actions of this LNP govt are making me ashamed to call myself an Aussie. We are fast becoming a pariah state in the way we treat the vulnerable of our country and also those needing protection from being abused in other countries. They are a complete disgrace and are pulling our international reputation down rapidly with every day that passes, we can't be far off rock bottom

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    3. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Janice Russell

      If the actions of a political party make you ashamed to call yourself an Aussie you need to have a good look at what that means.
      They can be brought to account at the next election - that is one crucial reason why referring to them as 'fascist' is nothing more than hysterical hyperbole. We are still a democracy, Janice. Our governments are held accountable at each election.
      Can you show me any objective evidence, other than your opinion, that "are pulling our international reputation down rapidly with every day that passes, we can't be far off rock bottom"?

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    4. Graham Bell

      Scrap-heaped War Veteran

      In reply to John Phillip

      John, it would be difficult to define the objective evidence you seek let alone put it up for examination.
      Sad to say, Australia is as much a democracy now as Rome was run by its Senate after Augustus took over. As for governments being held to account at each election, that's a joke; governments may change at election time but they have ceased to be accountable and all the current political actors know it, regardless of what they might say in their sound-bites.

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    1. Amy Maguire

      Lecturer in International Law at University of Newcastle

      In reply to David Howard

      Thank you, David, for bringing this to my attention. I apologise for the factual error - you are right that Australia and Iran did not vote against this decision and I should have been more careful with my phrasing of this statement. I will contact the editor now to ask for a correction in the article.

      It is worth noting, though, that Australia opposed the decision. Australia did have the option to co-sponsor the resolution, along with the US and UK, but has stated its commitment to a different…

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    2. David Howard

      Home Duties

      In reply to Amy Maguire

      Julie Bishop made clear why Australia didn't co-sponsor the resolution "not convinced that the US Sponsored resolution’s call for a separate, internationally-led investigation, without the cooperation of the Sri Lankan Government, is the best way forward"

      I think the source of praise doesn't mean it is not noteworthy. In 2012 Spain applauded “progress, The Holy See appreciated Sri Lanka’s “human rights and peace accomplishments.”, Sudan paid tribute to “Sri Lanka’s efforts to restore stability…

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    3. Janice Russell

      retired

      In reply to David Howard

      The only reason we didn't co-sponsor it was because it would have been an admission that our "turn back the boats " policy was based on lies

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  17. Graham Bell

    Scrap-heaped War Veteran

    The folly of relying on the one-size-fits-all concept of "asylum seekers" and deliberately neglecting to distinguish between the various types of people seeking to enter Australia by irregular means has come back to bite everyone: governments, academics, lawyers, operators of detention businesses, those at sea, their relations, people-traffickers, supporters, those displaying 'conspicuous compassion(??)", members of the ADF, journalists and heaven only knows who else.
    Good on you all; you've got the homogenized "asylum seekers" you all desired so don't whinge about the unexpected costs of your folly.
    I do feel very sorry for the "Sri Lankan Departees" (even that term is too broad) and I do wish them well but they are now tangled up in games of personal vanity and callous greed being played across the whole political and social spectrum in Australia and I can see little, if any, hope of them ever becoming disentangled.

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    1. Amy Maguire

      Lecturer in International Law at University of Newcastle

      In reply to Graham Bell

      Graham, I take issue with a couple of points in your comment.

      First, people seeking asylum can correctly be categorised as asylum seekers. If their claims are fully and fairly assessed, and they are found to not have genuine claims for protection, then it is reasonable for our government to seek their deportation. I have never argued, nor do I state in my article, that all asylum seekers have equally deserving claims for protection, or that Australia should allow an unlimited humanitarian intake…

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    2. Graham Bell

      Scrap-heaped War Veteran

      In reply to Amy Maguire

      Thank you for your response.
      If you think that I am asserting that some of those seeking to enter Australia are more deserving than others - my oath I am! My reasons for asserting that have nothing whatsoever to do with race, ethnicity, religion, politics, social status, occupation, age or which side/sides anyone was on.
      If you really truly do believe that those involved in this issue have such noble motivations as seeking truth and fair treatment, as compassion and commitment then may I…

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    3. Graham Bell

      Scrap-heaped War Veteran

      In reply to Janice Russell

      Scott Morrison? Where have I heard that name before? No, he didn't play for the Rabbitos or the Eels. Oh, I remember now, didn't he work as a publicity wallah for some commonwealth bureaucrats or tenderers or something? Nasty bit of work if my memory serves me right.
      Just had a fleeting vision of him, with a humble voice and averted gaze, doing a Please Explain before a board of inquiry in a few years time - now that would be a ton-of-fun to watch.

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