Australian Migration Bill 2016? «Unnecessary and unjustified»

The Government proposed to introduce a permanent ban on entering Australia for people who have sought asylum by boat. Fr. Pettenà, director of  Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office: «There are alternative ways»

The Australian Government proposed to introduce a permanent ban on entering Australia for people who have sought asylum by boat. The proposed Bill raises a number of important concerns, in particular:

  • Those who have family members in Australia could be permanently separated from them.
  • This Bill punishes vulnerable people who have simply sought protection. It targets those whom our successive governments have detained and subjected to torture and abuse.
  • The Bill continues to perpetuate insecurity among those 30 000 people who are seeking protection in Australia. They have already endured punitive policy changes and live in an ongoing state of instability. This adds yet another burden on their mental health.
  • The Bill is unnecessary and unjustified. The Goverment claims that it aims to prevent illegitimate visa applications. However, the Migration Act already contains extensive powers to this end. Moreover, this legislation is not limited to fraudulent applications, and would prevent entry even to someone who met all of the visa criteria, simply because they have had the misfortune to be detained on Nauru or Manus Island.
  • The Bill adds to the suite of already extreme measures that breach Australia’s international legal obligations. It would breach the Refugee Convention, entrench discrimination against people from certain countries, and undermine the rule of law.
  • The Government should be focusing on immediately ending indefinite detention, given that is has neglected its own responsibilities, only offered partial solutions, and provided no clear timeline.

In view of the above, I have been lobbying the Senators proposing alternative ways. I have done so by way of meeting and by way of distributing to each of them a written reflection based on the document published by the Pontifical Council for Migrant and Itinerant People and Cor Unum entitled, Welcoming Christ in Refugees and Forcibly Displaced Persons.

Fr. Maurizio Pettenà, director of Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office (ACMRO)