August 20, 2012
The Greens will move a motion in the Senate calling on the Government to act quickly to increase Australia’s humanitarian intake of refugees.
The Houston report on asylum seekers recommends that Australia immediately increase its yearly intake from 20,000 to 27,000 within five years.
Greens Senator Hanson-Young says the Government must also fund the agencies in Malaysia and Indonesia which look after asylum seekers while they are having their claims assessed.
She says the Federal Government has adopted the harsh aspects of the Houston report but it must also implement the other recommendations.
“We have seen no commitment, no timeline, no genuine desire to implement those [other recommendations],” she said.
“The Government must start with increasing immediately the humanitarian intake to 20,000.”
The move comes as the Navy assisted another asylum seeker boat east of Ashmore Island.
Initial reports suggest there were 19 passengers and two crew on board.
They are being transferred to Darwin where they will undergo initial health and security checks, and could be processed on Nauru or Manus Island.
Australian Human Rights Commission president Professor Gillian Triggs warned the Government that her organisation will be watching it closely as it implements its offshore processing plans.
She told The World Today the Federal Government’s amendments could review judicial oversight of offshore processing arrangements.
“By stripping away Section 1(98A) of the Migration Act, which was the basis on which the High Court last acted, it does make it much more difficult to have a High Court review of the circumstances in which third party processing will take place,” she said.
She said the arrangement could mean that human rights protections will be violated.
“It’s not a given at all and all I can do as president is to raise my concern … of course everything depends on the facts ultimately,” she said.
“We don’t quite yet know what the conditions are actually going to be.”
While there will be no judicial oversight under the arrangement, the locations the Government chooses for regional processing will be subject to parliamentary scrutiny.
Professor Triggs says that is not enough.
“I think that in the current political environment, the opportunity for parliamentary scrutiny is not particularly strong – although obviously there are people in parliament who are willing to keep a very strong watching brief on this,” she said.
“So I wouldn’t dismiss that as a precaution.”
She said was concerned the Immigration Minister would no longer be required to consider the interests of individual children.
“While in the past the Minister had to give consent in writing, that requirement no longer exists in the legislation and the Migration Act itself takes precedence above the Guardianship of Children Act,” she said.
“The position is that the Minister will not need to give individual attention, particularly to children, when making a determination that they are to be sent to another reprocessing centre.
“There is a fundamental principle that the rights of the child are a primary consideration and each child’s best interests must be considered. If the Minister is no longer required to do that, then we have concerns.”