31 October 2016
Australian Government’s lifetime ban proposal callous and cruel
The Australian Government continues to punish and discriminate against people seeking asylum for the way they travel to
Australia, with its proposed lifetime ban on people entering the country if they arrive by boat.
In an announcement yesterday Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said that the Government would seek to rush through new
laws that would prevent anyone who attempted to arrive in Australia by boat since 19 July, 2013, from ever setting foot
“This is yet another layer of cruelty in Australia’s already deliberately abusive policy, and only causes further
suffering to people who simply are looking for a safe place to rebuild their lives,” said Ming Yu Hah, Refugee
Campaigner at Amnesty International Australia.
“The Government has falsely presented this new legislation as necessary to close off ‘backdoor’ entry to Australia
before third country resettlement offers for some of the 2,000 people on Nauru and Manus Island are accepted by the
Amnesty International is deeply concerned about what the proposed laws would mean for both those who do not receive
offers from third countries for settlement and for families who are currently separated due to Australia’s abusive
“If the law is passed then this may mean that if some people are settled to a safe country, there may still be hundreds
of men, women and children left to languish indefinitely on Nauru and Manus Island,” said Ming Yu Hah.
“Not only is the Government proposing to rush through such outrageous and unnecessary laws, they are discriminating
against people seeking safety based on their mode of arrival, which is in clear breach of Australia’s obligations under
“Instead of blatantly disregarding the Australian Government’s responsibility to provide safety and protection for
people who need it, the quickest and fairest way to look after the 2000 men, women and children on Nauru and Manus
Island is to bring them to Australia now to process their asylum claims and welcome refugees into our community. This is
a short-term punitive measure, when what is needed is for the Government to commit adequate resources to an effective,
human rights-based regional approach.”
Amnesty International is calling on the Australian Government to immediately invest in alternative solutions that both
protect the human rights of people seeking asylum and prevent avoidable deaths – twin goals which should be the bedrock
of any asylum seeker policy.
“There are humane solutions – that both reduce deaths at sea and eliminate abuse. One shouldn’t come at the expense of
the other,” said Ming Yu Hah.
Humane alternatives exist which are based on the reality that unless there are safe, legal and timely ways to seek
asylum, people in fear of their lives will be forced to seek out irregular migration routes. These policy options
include developing cooperation arrangements with other countries in the Asia-Pacific region, expanding safe and legal
pathways for those seeking asylum, and improving search and rescue capability.
“Instead of banning people from ever setting foot in Australia, even when they have been recognised as genuine refugees,
what the Government should be looking at is the valuable skills and qualifications of many refugees and include them
when allocating student, work and family reunion visas,” said Ming Yu Hah.
Article 31 of the 1951 Refugee Convention, to which Australia is a party, clearly states that countries are prohibited
from imposing penalties based on people’s mode of arrival.