The Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload) Bill 2014, which amends the Migration Act 1958 and the Maritime Powers Act 2013, has recently been adopted by both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The full text can be read here.
According to the Refugee Advice and Casework Service, this bill seeks to:
- introduce TPVs for asylum seekers who arrived by boat or by air without a visa and are not subject to mandatory regional transfer and resettlement arrangements but are found to engage Australia’s protection obligations;
- establish a new assessment process with limited merits review for asylum seekers who arrived by boat from 13 August 2012;
- mandate that Australia’s non-refoulement obligations are irrelevant to the compulsory removal of a person who does not have a visa;
- codify Australia’s interpretation of its protection obligations under the Refugee Convention, render the Australian definition of “refugee” separate to and narrower than the currently accepted international law definition;
- clarify that Australian born children of asylum seekers who arrive by boat (unauthorized maritime arrivals) will be treated in the same way as their parents, including being eligible for transfer to a regional processing country and bar them from applying for a protection visa in Australia (where this applies to their parents);
- give the Minister the ability to place a limit on the number of protection visas that may be granted in a financial year; and
- limit the ability of Australian courts to invalidate actions at sea where these actions do not comply with Australia’s international obligations or the domestic law of other countries.
According to the UNHCR, this bill "raises a number of serious questions in relation to the interpretation of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol". The UNHCR submitted a memo to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee and proposed several amendments to the bill in order to comply with Australia's international obligations under international refugee law.
Moreover, the Refugee Advice and Casework Service recently stressed that: "the proposed changes will strip away fundamental legal safeguards afforded to people seeking protection from persecution in Australia."
Posted by Flavie Fuentes