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Wednesday, 16 November 1983
Page: 2779


Mr BLANCHARD —Is the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs aware of reports which state that migrants are being denied their rights when detained by the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs? Can the Minister assure the House that the fundamental human rights of those migrants detained are being safeguarded and that the concerns outlined in the Human Rights Commission Report No. 6 are being rectified?


Mr WEST —I have noticed in the Age newspaper quite erroneous reports that migrants' human rights were being denied. The media reports, and for that matter I think some of the evidence given before the Human Rights Commission inquiry into the Migration Act which is currently being continued in Melbourne, do not properly distinguish between migrants-that is, permanent residents and those who acquire citizenship in Australia-and prohibited immigrants or prohibited non- citizens, as they will be termed after the Migration Amendment Bill goes through the Senate. I should say with regard to deportation that the rights of migrants are being properly protected under this Government. I have already delivered a policy statement to that effect in this House, setting out the four-point criteria under which criminal deportation of migrants can proceed. Those criteria take into account the nature of the crime, the risk of recidivism, the contributions the migrants may make to Australian society and the rights of others in Australian society.

The reports say that there are inadequate appeal procedures. That is not so, in our opinion. The Administrative Appeals Tribunal can hear appeals by migrants who have been subjected to the deportation procedure and the Tribunal makes recommendations to the Minister. So there is a right of appeal. Of course, we intend to give immunity from criminal deportation, except for security related convictions, after 10 years of permanent residence in Australia. We are removing the discrimination that exists in the current Acts relating to migrants and we intend to introduce a new citizenship Bill soon. With regard to prohibited non- citizens-that is, the problem area of illegal immigrants-we have a problem because there are some 50,000 or 60,000 of those people in Australia. That really cannot be tolerated at a time of recession. That number has a potential blowout of up to 10,000 people a year.

I am very much concerned about the implications of leaving sections 38 and 39 of the Migration Act unamended. There are human rights problems there. But the point is that the previous Government for many years did nothing about them. When I receive the report of the Human Rights Commission, which will be available soon, we intend to address those problems. I am very concerned about a position in which prohibited immigrants can be apprehended without a warrant and held for 48 hours pending the report of a magistrate. I do not think that it is tenable. But the point is that that has been provided for in the Act for many years, and the previous Government never addressed it. We intend to address that situation after we have received the Human Rights Commission report. I say in conclusion that this Government is concerned about removing discrimination against migrants, removing discrimination between Commonwealth citizens and non- Commonwealth citizens, addressing the problem of the human rights of prohibited immigrants and at the same time retaining a balance between the rights of those who are not citizens or permanent residents in Australia and the protection that the workers of Australia are entitled to expect from this Government in regard to employment.