Jesuit Refugee Service condemns Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s announcement that people arriving by boat to seek asylum in Australia, and currently held in Nauru and Papua New Guinea, would be banned for life from entering Australia.
The proposed legislation is in breach of Article 31 of the Refugees Convention, which states that refugees should not be penalized for their mode of entry or a lack of documentation.
Australia is the lone signatory to the Convention that denies people asylum based on their mode of arrival. JRS notes that Mr. Turnbull in his statement referred to these people as “irregular maritime arrivals,” not “illegal” ones.
The legislation would exclude from Australia people who made journeys without prior clearance from the receiving country, the kind of irregular entry that is made daily by the vast majority of refugees fleeing conflict.
Mr. Turnbull described the circumstances prompting the legislation as a battle of wills between the Australians and criminal people-smugglers. This is political legerdemain at its worst.
By presenting people smugglers as the mortal enemy, he deliberately obscures from view the people who will suffer as a result of this legislation: desperate people fleeing armed conflict and violent persecution.
Some of the recognized refugees on Nauru or Manus Island have family members already in Australia. If the legislation is passed they will never be reunited with their families.