Category Archives: Australian Government and Opposition

NSW Premier Mike Baird tells Prime Minister Tony Abbott: ‘do more’ to help refugees

January 23, 2015 | smh

Friendly fire: NSW Premier Mike Baird, left, congratulated Tony Abbott on recently increasing Australia's humanitarian intake for refugees, but said he should "do more".Friendly fire: NSW Premier Mike Baird, left, congratulated Tony Abbott on recently increasing Australia’s humanitarian intake for refugees, but said he should “do more”. Photo: Getty Images

Premier Mike Baird has called on Prime Minister Tony Abbott to “do more” to accept refugees, saying Australia’s economic strength means nothing unless we help the world’s vulnerable.

Mr Baird’s critique of Coalition refugee policy came as Fairfax Media established Mr Abbott has been quietly ringing backbenchers since the start of the year as he manages growing anxiety over his government’s performance.

NSW stands ready … to take more than our fair share.

Premier Mike Baird

Speaking at an Australia Day Council of NSW lunch on Friday, Mr Baird said Australia was the lucky country, and should “open our arms to those around the world who are much less fortunate than us”.

Mr Baird, a committed Christian, congratulated Mr Abbott on recently increasing Australia’s humanitarian intake for refugees, but said he should “do more”.

“[There are people] in incredibly difficult circumstances with nowhere to turn,” Mr Baird said.

Under the former federal Labor government, the humanitarian program was set at 20,000 places, however the Abbott government dropped this to 13,750 places in 2013-14.

In December the government pledged to increase the annual humanitarian intake to 18,750 over the next four years.

The federal government has also attracted the ire of refugee advocates with its controversial “stop the boats” policy of offshore detention for any arrivals by boat people.

Federal Labor’s acting immigration spokesman Matt Thistlethwaite seized on the comments, saying it was clear the Abbott government had “turned its back on refugees”.

Fairfax Media has learned Mr Abbott’s calls have been made to selected backbenchers seen as influential in the party room or whose judgment Mr Abbott respects.

Two of those involved said the talks had been both free-ranging and constructive with the Prime Minister eager to hear the unvarnished truth about voter and party-room sentiment.

The revelation comes as discontent tending towards outright anger simmers within the Liberal party room over what many MPs see as government bungling and political mismanagement.

More than 20 MPs have confirmed privately that they harbour grave concerns over their government’s botched handling of Medicare reform, higher education changes, and over unscripted “kite flying” exercises such as talk of changes to the politically toxic, goods and services tax.

“These announcements come and go with no warning and no instruction or explanation to the backbench as to how to explain them to voters,” complained one marginal seat MP.

But a source close to Mr Abbott denied the calls were an attempt to shore-up flagging support, insisting they were for information-gathering purposes and had always been part of Mr Abbott’s plan for wider prime ministerial consultation in 2015.

The insider said the Prime Minister had flagged a “reset at the end of 2014” which would inevitably involve a broader advisory structure than had been the case last year and that he planned to use the feedback to inform his political strategy to be outlined at the National Press Club in just over a week.

Mr Abbott offered a sharper defence of his leadership and of government policy on Sydney’s 2GB radio on Friday, name-checking four ministers as stand-out performers but conspicuously leaving out his top economic minister, Treasurer Joe Hockey.

“I’m incredibly proud of the work of my ministers, all of them, whether it be Scott Morrison or Julie Bishop or Malcolm Turnbull or Andrew Robb, I’m very proud of all of them,” he told 2GB’s Ben Fordham.

He said he could always do better but criticism was exaggerated.

“We haven’t jeopardised our relationship with our neighbours, we haven’t put people at risk in leaky boats on open seas, our main fault is that we haven’t been able to get legislation past the opposition-dominated Senate,” he said.

“Maybe if I’d had more dinners with the cross-benchers, maybe if I’d spoken more sweetly to Bill Shorten, this would’ve been different but in the end, this country does have to live within its means.”

Mr Baird said Australia was part of a global community and “as a lucky country we have a responsibility to play in helping others as part of that community”.

“NSW stands ready … to take more than our fair share. Yes, we have strength in our finances but my strong sense is that means nothing, unless we offer help to those who are vulnerable amongst us.”

Mr Baird’s father, Bruce, was a former federal Liberal MP who objected to the Howard government’s mandatory detention of asylum seekers. Mr Baird snr is now chair of the Refugee Resettlement Advisory Council, which advises the federal government on refugee and humanitarian settlement in Australia.

Refugee Council of Australia spokeswoman Lucy Morgan welcomed Mr Baird’s call.

“In the current global context, it’s really imperative that countries like Australia start stepping up and providing more places to people fleeing persecution,” she said.

“We are really at a point now, internationally, where needs are multiplying and there is a need for a more targeted and comprehensive response from countries like Australia, which are not at the front line of these crises and are not yet doing the heavy lifting.”

Mr Abbott’s office did not respond to request for comment.

A spokesman for Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said the government was “strongly committed to a well-managed humanitarian programme and Australia remains one of the top three refugee resettlement countries in the world”.



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Senate gives Scott Morrison unchecked control over asylum seekers’ lives

December 05, 2014 | the guardian

The most powerful minister in the government –  Immigration minister Scott Morrison in parliament on Thursday.

The most powerful person in the Australian government: Scott Morrison walks the corridors of parliament on Thursday. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

The Senate crossbench has supported the passing of broad new migration and maritime powers – but what exactly do they mean for the minister, asylum seekers and Australia’s obligations under international law?

Scott Morrison is now the most powerful person in the Australian government.

The passage of the migration and maritime powers legislation amendment(resolving the asylum legacy caseload) bill 2014 has given the immigration minister, while he holds that job, unprecedented, unchallengeable, and secret powers to control the lives of asylum seekers.

Previous immigration ministers have decried the burden and the caprice of “playing God” with asylum seekers’ lives, but the government has chosen, instead, to install even greater powers in the office of the minister.

With the Senate’s acquiescence, Scott Morrison has won untrammelled power.

No other minister, not the prime minister, not the foreign minister, not the attorney-general, has the same unchecked control over the lives of other people.

With the passage of the new law, the minister can push any asylum seeker boat back into the sea and leave it there.

The minister can block an asylum seeker from ever making a protection claim on the ill-defined grounds of “character” or “national interest”. His reasons can be secret.

He can detain people without charge, or deport them to any country he chooses even if it is known they’ll be tortured there.

Morrison’s decisions cannot be challenged.

Boat arrivals will have no access to the Refugee Review Tribunal.

Instead, they will be classed as “fast track applicants” whose only appeal is to a new agency, the Immigration Assessment Authority, but they will not get a hearing, only a paper review.

“Excluded fast track applicants” will only have access to an internal review by Morrison’s own department.

The bill is a seismic piece of legislation – one that destroys more than it creates.

The government argues the new law will remove the obstructions that exist to it fulfilling its mandate of “stopping the boats”.

asylum seeker boats
Australian navy personnel transfer Afghanistan asylum-seekers to a Indonesian rescue boat near West Java. Due to the passing on the amendments, the government is now entitled to return an asylum seeker to a country where they have been, or it is known they will be, tortured. Photograph: AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Critics – and they are a formidable group, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the UN’s Committee Against Torture and parliament’s own human rights committee – say the bill strips the checks and balances that have always existed in Australia’s immigration system, and removes basic protections for those who arrive seeking asylum.

Australia now regards itself as free from the bonds of the Refugees Convention – a treaty Australia helped write, and willingly signed up to, more than half a century ago. All references to it have been removed from Australian law.

Instead of adhering to the established, internationally-agreed framework for dealing with asylum seekers, Australia will follow a “new, independent and self-contained statutory framework”, that sets out the government’s own interpretation of international law.

That new interpretation is apparent in this bill. Refugee law is built upon the fundamental principle of non-refoulement, which forbids returning a person to their persecutors.

It exists not only in the Refugees Convention, but in customary law. It is recognised by every country.

Australian law now says: “it is irrelevant whether Australia has non-refoulement obligations in respect of an unlawful non-citizen”.

Stripped of the legalese, that paragraph says Australia is now entitled to return an asylum seeker to a country where they have been, or it is known they will be, tortured.

Overwhelmingly, the public focus of the legislation, and the sharp end of Senate negotiations, has been around temporary protection visas (TPVs), though they form only a small part of the bill.

TPVs have been trialled in Australia before and failed. Between 1999 and 2007 (when they were abandoned) Australia granted 11,206 TPVs. And 95% of those visa holders were ultimately granted permanent protection.

The number of boat arrivals to Australia increased after the introduction of TPVs, and more of those arrivals were women and children. (Because the TPVs forbade family reunion, entire families climbed onto boats, or women and children came to meet men already in the country.)

In the Senate horse-trading, significant concessions have been won.

Morrison has been forced to capitulate on his most fundamental commitment – the pathway to permanence – but it is a concession in principle, and name only.

In amendments to the legislation, the government has opened up the possibility – though it appears an exceedingly remote likelihood – of a temporary protection visa progressing to a permanent visa in Australia.

On November 25, Morrison said: “There’s no way I will lift the bar to give someone a permanent visa. We gave an absolute commitment on that and I’m not going to send a message … that permanent visas are on offer in Australia again for people who have arrived illegally by boat.”

This week he said, “at the end of a Special Humanitarian Enterprise Visa people can apply for visas which include permanent visas”.

The door has been opened, if only a sliver, to the possibility of a permanent visa to stay in Australia for someone who arrived by boat. But it is an unlikely reality for anyone, Morrison has said.

While anxious to keep the “sugar off the table” for asylum seekers, Morrison has offered the Senate crossbench a series of sweeteners in exchange for their votes this week.

He has promised to soften the cuts to Australia’s humanitarian refugee intake.

The government had planned to cut the number of offshore refugees resettled by Australia from 20,000 to 13,750. The new intake will be 18,750 over the next four years.

Asylum seekers will be moved off Christmas Island to the mainland of Australia while their claims are processed. Up to 468 children will be released from detention.

And about 25,000 people currently living in Australia on bridging visas will be given the right to work.

These are significant concessions, but they are decisions Morrison could have made at any time, and they are not – despite efforts to portray them as such – in any way related to the new law.

Manus Island and Nauru currently hold 2,151 refugees and asylum seekers. Detention centres there have been blighted by violence, sexual assault, and suicide attempts, but are unaffected by the new laws, or the government’s concessions.


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New visa types cannot be used until fresh legislation is passed

November 15, 2014 | the guardian

New visa was critical to gaining Palmer United party support but it is unclear how it would work or how many would be granted

Asylum seekers at Manus Island
Asylum seekers at the Manus Island detention centre in Papua New Guinea.Photograph: Eoin Blackwell/AAP

The federal government will need to make more changes to immigration laws before asylum seekers can move from proposed working visas to other visa classes.

The migration and maritime powers amendment would make significant changes to the assessment process for asylum seekers to “fast-track” decision making, and would also reintroduce temporary protection visas.

Part of the legislation – and critical to gaining the support of the Palmer United party – was the creation of a new type of visa called a safe haven enterprise visa (Shev).

But the legislation itself provides few details of how this visa would operate. There is little indication how many would be granted each year and what the criteria would be, with most details left to the minister to make regulations.

During the Senate hearing on Friday into the migration and maritime powers amendment, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection revealed that further legislation would be necessary to ensure asylum seekers could transition between different classes of visas.

The acting deputy secretary of the department’s policy group, Alison Larkins, told the committee: “I can talk about the current intention but there will be a whole other set of legislation that will need to be put in place to manage the access of other visas products for people who hold Shevs and that’s sometime down the track.”

Karen Visser, director of the department’s protection and humanitarian policy section, then clarified to the committee: “Perhaps raft is too generous a word … it’s more that we have to ensure that the pathway the minister intends to create works properly.

“What we have to make sure is the Shev interacts appropriately with those other visa classes, that the pathway is supposed to lead to. That may well require us to make some amendments to the application requirements.”

Labor senator Jacinta Collins and Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young both expressed concerns that the visa plans did not appear to be progressing swiftly enough, with the government pushing the committee to report quickly on the legislation.

“Not only do we not have the details of the conditions people will be living under on a Shev, you don’t even have the detail as to how the Shev will work, which is all meant to be designed to have a pathway to permanent,” Hanson-Young said.

Visser responded: “It’s a technical matter that needs to be worked through”.

Collins asked the department whether the visas were a “charade”, but the department rejected this.

“Convince me from the department’s dealing with this matter … are these Shev provisions a charade?” she said.

Visser responded: “No, senator, we are working in good faith to put this product in place … it is not a charade.”

Collins said: “Well the lack of capacity to describe the product raises serious concerns about this bill.”

Liberal senator Ian Macdonald said he was sure the minister “having seen this interaction will write to the committee telling us what he can”.

The Refugee Council of Australia’s chief executive officer, Paul Power, told the committee the changes proposed in the bill would leave asylum seekers in limbo.

“Families known by the government to be experiencing the impacts of persecution will be indefinitely separated if parliament passes the asylum legacy case load bill in its current form,” he said.

“The family member will be trapped, having to decide whether to remain safely in Australia while providing support to other members of the family living in danger or return to situations the Australian government acknowledges would place them at a very high risk of persecution.”


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More than 5700 submissions on Scott Morrison’s controversial immigration bill

November 14, 2014 | smh

A parliamentary committee has received more than 5700 submissions against a controversial bill introduced by Immigration Minister Scott Morrison that could allow Australia to neglect its human rights obligations under international law if passed by the Senate.

The United Nations High  Commissioner for Refugees and human rights lawyers including David Manne have written submissions. They will also appear at a hearing into the  suggested legislation on Friday in Canberra.

The key issues against the bill include removing international legal accountability; fast-tracking refugee assessments that do not allow any right of appeal; and removing references to the Refugee Convention in Australian law. There were 5712 submissions to the legal and constitutional affairs legislation committee. The majority were against the changes.

The UNHCR said it was particularly concerned about  a decision to “fundamentally alter” Australia’s obligations to refugees assumed by Australia on its signing of the 1951 convention relating  to the status of refugees.

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said the bill was “radically cruel”.

“This bill is an affront to Australian decency and compassion,” she said.

Mr Morrison has maintained that the proposed changes will enable the government to stop  the boats, and resolve the “legacy caseload” of 30,000 asylum seekers who arrived under the Labor government.

This month, the government’s  human rights committee, chaired by Liberal senator Dean Smith, found the proposed changes were incompatible with Australia’s human rights obligations.

The report, delivered by the joint parliamentary committee on  human rights, was scathing of nearly all of the government’s proposed changes to the act, saying they would put Australia at odds with international human rights law.

It was particularly critical of a proposal to cut the time in which asylum seekers’ refugee claims would be assessed, warning it could lead to genuine refugees being sent home to face persecution or torture.


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Refugees’ plight in Australia: from compassion to ‘vicious and vindictive’

November 02, 2014 | the guardian

Asylum seekers arriving in Darwin in the 1970s and being held in Manus Island detention centre in PNG in 2014.

Asylum seekers Australian 1970s and 2014 Photograph: National Archives/AAP

Guy Goodwin-Gill, who represented the UN in Australia in the Fraser years, says today’s asylum policy is ‘wrong, and also very dangerous’

The first (post-colonial) boat person to arrive in Australia had a speech prepared, in English, when he docked his battered junk, the Kien Giang, in Darwin Harbour, on 26 April, 1976.

“Welcome to my boat,” he told the immigration official who boarded his vessel the next day.

“My name is Lam Binh and these are my friends from South Vietnam and we would like permission to stay in Australia.”

Binh and his four compatriots explained they had used a page torn from a school atlas to find Australia.

They were fleeing the North’s communist rule. They were granted refugee status.

Between 1978 and 1983 a Briton, Guy Goodwin-Gill, was the United Nations high commissioner for refugees’ lone legal representative in Australia.

He remembers watching a boat, another junk like the Kien Giang, drop anchor in Darwin harbour, another crowded boat of Vietnamese fleeing persecution.

Vietnamese refugees 1970s
Vietnamese refugees 1970s

“It was bloody hot, I said to the [immigration department] official, ‘Why don’t you let them in? They’re sitting there in the sun.’ The immediate answer was, ‘They weren’t invited.’ The irony was, in those days, that little boat was fully provisioned with water, fresh chicken, rice. There was a contradiction, a tension, between ‘We’re going to be tough; we’re going to make them sit in the middle of the harbour for 48 hours because they weren’t invited, but we are going to be sure they have enough to eat and drink.’ ”

That tension doesn’t exist any more, Goodwin-Gill argues.

“I worry that these days they wouldn’t be given anything to eat and drink. What happens to non-citizens in this country now is vicious and vindictive.”

Under the Liberal government of Malcolm Fraser, the desire to be “tough” on boat arrivals was tempered, in fact surpassed, Goodwin-Gill argues, by a humanitarian concern for the boat arrivals – what they’d fled from, and what they’d been through to reach Australia.

“The control mentality in immigration was still there, but it was very much overtaken by a deep humanitarian concern for the plight of the Indo-Chinese refugees that had captured the public imagination. This was a world problem, and that was understood.”

Vietnamese refugees crowded into a boat
North Vietnamese refugees crowded into a boat en route to Australia

But there was pragmatism, too, to the Australian position.

Boats were being refuelled and reprovisioned in the Philippines and Indonesia before heading south, and the Fraser government recognised the need for regional cooperation to deal with the flow of people fleeing.

“These issues are only ever properly addressed through cooperation, not with one country pursuing its supposed own interest.”

Before the Keating government introduced mandatory detention in 1992, asylum seekers had their claims assessed while they lived in the community. Typically it took weeks for refugee status to be formally granted.

Coming from Britain, where each refugee application was resisted “because it was another statistic”, Goodwin-Gill found an Australia that welcomed refugees.

“When I came here in 78, it was a shocking revelation, and a delight, to discover the immigration department didn’t give a damn; they did not care that it was one more refugee.”

Godwin Gill
Guy Goodwin-Gill

Goodwin-Gill, now emeritus professor of international refugee law at the University of Oxford, is back in Australia to speak on Monday at the Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law at UNSW, on the principle and pragmatism of refugees’ protection.

He says he is concerned by the direction of Australian asylum policy: by mandatory detention, which he regards as “undoubtedly unlawful”; by offshore processing and resettlement (“punitive … farcical”); and by boat tow-backs (“a violation of Indonesian sovereignty about which it has sound basis for complaint”). Indonesia’s new president, Joko Widodo, threatened Australia over naval incursions last week.

“When I worked here in Australia, this country became a major player in an international action to deal with what was a major humanitarian crisis. And it was, rightly, widely respected for the role that it played.

“Now Australia has adopted unilateralist, aggressive policies pursued without cooperation with any other country. This is contrary to what Australia as a founder member of the United Nations has committed to. It’s contrary to what we know from experience is needed if refugee issues are to be solved.”

The Australian government points to no boat arrivals – noting at least a dozen have been intercepted at sea – for nearly 11 months as evidence its policies are working, and are grounded in a humanitarian rationale.

Asylum seekers are searched after being intercepted by Australian customs officers at Christmas Islan, in July 2013.
Asylum seekers are searched after being intercepted by Australian customs officers at Christmas Islan, in July 2013. Photograph: Colin Murty/Newspix/REX/Colin Murty/Newspix/REX

“Since the 19th of December when the policy was introduced, not a life lost at sea,” the immigration minister, Scott Morrison, said on television last week.

“How do you know there are no lives lost at sea? I’d like to see the evidence,” Goodwin-Gill argues.

“Has the sum of protection increased for people who need it? Are people better off? Australia is focusing only on one aspect of this issue, and that may be satisfying a particular constituency, but what about Indonesia, or the other transit countries for those people who are still desperately in search of solutions.”

Goodwin-Gill says Australia’s commitment to “stopping the boats”, at a cost of$3bn a year, is “unsustainable short-termism”.

“How long are you going to keep them stopped? How much money are you going to spend over how many years? Experience tells us you may be able to manage a certain flow in a certain place at a certain time for a certain group of people. But what will happen in the future? It doesn’t solve the problem.”

A lifeboat that washed ashore in West Java
A lifeboat used in an Australian government turnback that washed ashore in West Java. Photograph: HKV / Barcroft Media/HKV / Barcroft Media

And the secrecy that surrounds Australia’s “on-water operations”, and its detention centres on Christmas Island, Nauru and PNG, is “anti-democratic”.

“The fact that you have to surround government policy and practice in secrecy suggests some wrongdoing. This is what totalitarian states do.”

There are bright spots to Australia’s asylum regime. Its resettlement program is one of the world’s best, Goodwin-Gill says, though its numbers have been cut by almost one-third this year, from 20,000 to 13,750.

Australia now resettles far fewer refugees than it has in previous generations. Between 1947 and 1954, Australia resettled 171,000 refugees, per capita nearly six times greater than the current rate.

And “third-country” resettlement will always be inadequate; fewer than 1% of recognised refugees are ever resettled, and demand increasingly outstrips supply.

Developing nations host 80% of the world’s refugees and these are countries usually poorly equipped to assist and protect people, and often wracked by violence or upheaval themselves.

“While Australia is right to congratulate itself on its resettlement program, the rest of the world has tended to forget that, because all it sees is this nasty country sending people off to this pseudo-state called Nauru, to difficult conditions in PNG, and negotiating this farcical arrangement with Cambodia.”

Nauru from the air – the island has few sources of income other than the detention centre operated by the federal government.
Nauru from the air – the island has few sources of income other than the detention centre operated by the federal government. Photograph: Torsten Blackwood/AFP/Getty Images

Guardian Australia reported last week on the latest allegations of mistreatment and abuse of refugees on Nauru, the physical assault of four teenage refugees, one of whom was left in hospital.

The Australian government said it was “wholly a matter for Nauru” and authorities on the island, but Goodwin-Gill argues Australia remains legally responsible for the treatment of those on Nauru.

Nauru is a client state, Goodwin-Gill says, “bought 10 times over” and entirely beholden to Australia’s demands.

“From an international legal perspective, Australia remains responsible for what happens in those countries … Those countries are agents of Australia. And these events are foreseeable consequences of Australia’s aggressive policies, much as the violations of Indonesian territorial waters are foreseeable consequences. They are not accidents.”

Goodwin-Gill argues Australia has damaged its international reputation through policies regarded internationally as illegal.

At the United Nations’ universal periodic review, 11 countries separately condemned Australia’s asylum policy.

“Australia will say, ‘Everyone wants to do what we’re doing’, but it’s not true. I view these actions with contempt. I think it is pathetic what is going on here. It is wrong, and it is also very dangerous.”


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Asylum seekers’ personal details stolen in second immigration data breach

October 16, 2014 | the guardian

Stolen information on Nauru asylum seekers includes case files, medical histories and protection claims.

Asylum seekers in the detention centre on Nauru.
Guardian Australia understands the asylum seekers have not been told their personal information has been stolen. Photograph: Department of Immigration/AAP

The personal details of hundreds of asylum seekers on Nauru have been stolen in a second major data breach within Australia’s immigration detention system.

At least two hard drives, not password-protected and containing the personal details of hundreds of asylum seekers, including children, have been stolen from detention camps this year.

The sensitive information stolen includes detainees’ complete personal details and case files, medical histories, as well as their protection claims detailing why they felt forced to leave their home country to claim asylum in Australia.

The stolen files also contain case worker notes on detainees, including mental health and behavioural issues, complaints about treatment and allegations of abuse, and the minutes of “vulnerable minors meetings” where the issues faced by children in detention were discussed.

None of the information has been recovered after several months.

Guardian Australia understands the asylum seekers have not been told their personal information has been stolen.

In February, Guardian Australia revealed the personal details of nearly 10,000 adults and children in immigration in detention had beeninadvertently posted on a public website by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

This week, the immigration minister, Scott Morrison, said the department website would be secure in future.

“In that case, the weaknesses that were identified have been rectified,” Morrison said.

But the minister’s office has not responded to queries regarding the lost Nauru hard drives, the nature of the information lost, or who might have accessed it.

The theft was first reported by SBS, but more details can now be revealed.

Internal correspondence seen by Guardian Australia says one of the Nauru hard drives was stolen from an office tent in a detention centre in April.

“Obviously this is concerning for several reasons. It contains documents with clients’ personal details … it highlights how unsecure the office tents are,” it says.

A series of emails highlights the lack of security in the camps, detailing that mobile phones, hard disks, laptops and fans have been stolen, including from locked cabinets.

“There is nowhere to store keys at the moment which means that the keys to our storerooms and shipping containers which have thousands of dollars worth of equipment in them are kept out in the open,” one email said.

A second hard drive, containing sensitive child protection information, was stolen less than a month later.

A manager from Wilson Security promised to review security in response to the thefts.

A spokeswoman for Save the Children said the protection and wellbeing of the children and families on Nauru was the organisation’s highest priority.

“We are therefore extremely concerned about the loss of data on Nauru. An internal investigation has been undertaken into what happened and how it happened,” she said.

Executive director of the Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre, David Manne, said the alleged loss of asylum seekers’ sensitive information was a “grave concern”.

“It is a fundamental principle of refugee law that a person who is seeking asylum must be free to make that claim without fear of their privacy being breached and without fear of disclosure of that personal information, possibly to their persecutors, the very people they are fleeing,” he said.

The disclosure of asylum seekers’ personal information, especially if it might be able to be accessed by the people, government, or group an asylum seeker is fleeing, could be grounds, of itself, for the granting of refugee protection, Manne said.

“We are aware of several cases where information people have given in their protection claim has fallen into the hands of agents of persecution, and that has put already vulnerable people at a heightened risk of persecution,” he added.


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Scott Morrison strikes deal with Clive Palmer to reintroduce temporary protection visas

September 25, 2014 | the age / ABC News

Some asylum seekers could eventually be given permanent residency in a deal reached between Clive Palmer and Immigration Minister Scott Morrison to allow the reintroduction of temporary protection visas and remove all asylum seekers from Christmas Island.

As part of the deal, apart from of the reintroduction of a three-year temporary protection visa, the federal government will also introduce a new five-year visa – called the Safe Haven Enterprise Visa – that will allow asylum seekers to eventually apply for other onshore visas.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has announced a deal with Clive Palmer to reintroduce temporary protection visas for asylum seekers.Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has announced a deal with Clive Palmer to reintroduce temporary protection visas for asylum seekers. Photo: Andrew Meares

The visa will allow asylum seekers to be granted onshore visas, such as family and skilled visas as well as temporary skilled and student visas.

This means that asylum seekers could eventually be given permanent residency if they fulfil the requirements of the other onshore visas

In a press conference in Brisbane, Mr Palmer announced 1500 people will be moved from Christmas Island to mainland Australia as part of the deal with the government.

“It’s also a good thing that it doesn’t have people locked in a ghetto situation with no hope for themselves or their family,” he told reporters in Brisbane.

Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra that the two visa options – the TPV and the Safe Haven Enterprise Visa – would only be offered to

people who are already in Australia and found to be refugees. Mr Morrison said it would not apply to anyone on Nauru, Manus or who arrived in Australia now.

Under the Safe Haven Enterprise Visa, asylum seekers who are found to be refugees would have to live and work in a regional area.

Under this visa, they could then apply for a range of other visas including a skilled migration visa, which could eventually lead to permanent residency in Australia.

“It means that if they do go to those places and they do work for 3.5 years out of the five, then they may make an onshore application for what could be a student visa, it could be a 457 visa but they would have to meet the eligibility requirements of those visas,” Mr Morrison said.

When asked whether there will be a cap placed on the number of  of the five-year visas, Mr Morrison said the government hadn’t decided whether that would be necessary.

“We haven’t considered whether a cap might be necessary,” he said. “And the flow of people will depend upon the assessment process and how many people are found to be refugees or not.”

Mr Morrison also touched on the Cambodia resettlement agreement, which he will sign in Phnom Penh on Friday, saying the deal would only be for refugees who voluntarily choose to permanently resettle in the impoverished country.

“There will be no surprise. The arrangement is strictly voluntary. Anyone who chooses to go to Cambodia will have chosen themselves to go to Cambodia,” he said.

“Support will be tailored to the needs of those as part of the package of measures that will go to their resettlement which is designed to make them self-reliant as quickly as possible.

“This will be an ongoing developing relationship. This is a country, Australia, who has the best record on resettlement of any country proudly in the world, working together with another refugee signatory country in our region to help them develop the capability to resettle refugees.”

Greens immigration spokeswoman Sarah Hanson Young said Mr Palmer had been “played”, calling the Safe Haven Enterprise visa a “furphy”.

“Most people won’t get it,” she said. “Most people won’t be able to be eligible for any type of transfer to permanency, and so they will be back in permanent limbo.”

Seantor Hanson-Young said she believed most asylum seekers would not be eligible for the new visa.

“I think Clive Palmer has well and truly been played. I think he took on something that was too complex and too big for him to handle.”

The Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload) Bill 2014:

  • introduces temporary protection visas for unauthorised arrivals already in detention
  • creates a new visa class of safe haven enterprise visa
  • deems that if an asylum seeker has a current permanent protection visa application in train that it be instead considered an application for a TPV
  • creates a fast-track assessment process for those who arrived on or after August 13, 2012, by removing access to the Refugee Review Tribunal and referring reviews instead to a new Immigration Assessment Authority
  • removes most references to the UN Refugees Convention and replaces it with Australia’s interpretation of its obligations under the convention
  • classifies children born to asylum seekers in Australia or a regional processing centre as “unauthorised maritime arrivals” to be blocked from applying for permanent visas, and resettled offshore
  • allows the Government to remove people who fail to gain refugee status, without regard to assessments of Australia’s non-refoulement obligations (refoulement being the international legal principle forbidding the return of a refugee anywhere their life or freedom could be threatened)
  • deems that a person has a well-founded fear if they face a “real chance” of persecution in all areas of a receiving country, and says decision-makers should consider whether the person can access an area where they do not face a real threat of persecution
  • puts a cap on the number of protection visas that can be issued in a year (which circumvents a High Court ruling earlier this year invalidating that approach)
  • give the Immigration Minister more powers to direct boat turnbacks
  • provide that the rules of natural justice do not apply to a range of powers, including the Immigration Minister’s new powers
  • allows a boat or people to be taken to a place outside Australia, whether or not Australia has an agreement or arrangements with the country
  • ensures the Government’s policies cannot be invalidated by the courts for not complying with international obligations


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Filed under Asylum Policy, Australian Government and Opposition