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Migration Legislation Amendment (The Bali Process) Bill 2012

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STATEMENT OF COMPATIBILITY FOR A BILL OR LEGISLATIVE INSTRUMENT THAT RAISES HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUES

Statement of Compatibility with Human Rights

Prepared in accordance with Part 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011

 

Migration Legislation Amendment (The Bali Process) Bill 2012

 

This Bill is compatible with the human rights and freedoms recognised or declared in the international instruments listed in section 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011 .

 

Overview of the Bill

People smuggling, and its undesirable consequences including the resulting loss of life at sea, are major regional problems that need to be addressed.  These are challenges that must be tackled in partnership with other countries.  The Regional Cooperation Framework, agreed to in March 2011 by delegates to the Fourth Ministerial Conference of the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime (the Bali Process) , provides an opportunity to do this .  The proposed amendments to the Migration Act 1958 (Migration Act) allow for the taking of asylum seekers arriving at excised offshore places to a designated offshore assessment country (OAC), which is a Bali Process participant, for the assessment of their claims. 

Human rights implications

This Bill engages human rights relating to detention, use of force, non-refoulement and family and children.  These are considered below.

The Bill raises issues in relation to the freedom of movement (Article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)) and the expulsion of aliens (Article 13 of the ICCPR).  However, these obligations are not engaged as they relate to rights for persons who are lawfully in a country and to the right to enter one’s own country.  The affect of this Bill is upon people who are not lawfully in Australia and where Australia is not identified as their own country.



Detention

The Bill proposes an amendment to subsection 189(3) of the Migration Act which will remove the discretion to detain an offshore entry person (OEP) arriving at an excised offshore place and make detention mandatory.  This change will bring the detention of unlawful non-citizens in excised offshore places in line with the detention of those who are not in excised offshore places, reflecting what occurs in practice.  This is consistent with Government policy that generally all OEPs be detained for identity, security and other relevant checks.  Immigration detention for such reasons is not considered to be arbitrary (Article 9(1) of the ICCPR) and offshore entry persons can challenge the lawfulness of their detention in the High Court (Article 9(4)) of the ICCPR) The detention of offshore entry persons pending them being taken to an OAC is expected to be of a short duration.  Such persons will be treated humanely in accordance with Article 10 of the ICCPR, in line with current arrangements for persons in immigration detention.

Use of force

The Bill contemplates the use of force by an officer to place an OEP on a vehicle or vessel, to restrain, or remove them from Australia (subsection 198AD(3)).  However such force may only be that which is ‘necessary and reasonable’.  It is not considered that the application of reasonable and necessary force in compliance with this provision would constitute ‘cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment’ (Article 7 of the ICCPR).

Non-refoulement and rights relating to families and children

In addition to the non-refoulement (non-return) obligations under the Refugees Convention (which is not one of the treaties that this Statement is required to address), Australia has an obligation to not forcibly send a person to a country where they are at a real risk of the death penalty, arbitrary deprivation of life, torture, or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (Article 6 and 7 of the ICCPR, Article 3 of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT)) or to a country which would send the person to another country where they face such a risk.

Australia also has an obligation to treat the best interests of the child as a primary consideration in all actions concerning children (Article 3 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child).  In addition, Australia must not unlawfully or arbitrarily interfere with the family (Articles 17 and 23 of the ICCPR).

A legislative scheme that provides for the taking of persons from Australia must comply with these obligations.  However, the legislation need not expressly guarantee compliance, so long as the combination of legislation, policies, procedures and practices allows Australia to comply with these obligations.

Subsection 198AB(1) of the Bill provides that the Minister may designate that a country is an OAC.  The only conditions for the exercise of the power under subsection 198AB(1) is that the Minister thinks it is in the national interest to so designate a country and that the country is a participant in the Bali Process.  In considering the national interest, the Minister must have regard to whether or not the country had given any assurances about not returning persons covered by these arrangements to a country where their life or freedom would be threatened for a Refugees Convention reason, and about having an assessment process for Refugees Convention claims.

Moreover, paragraph 198AB(5)(b) provides that the Minister may have regard to any other matter which, in the opinion of the Minister, relates to the national interest.  This confers on the Minister a broad power to take into account other issues.  These issues can therefore include Australia’s other non-refoulement obligations under Articles 6 and 7 of the ICCPR and Article 3 of the CAT.  That is, this provision does not preclude the consideration of international obligations as part of a 198AB(5)(b) national interest consideration process and policies, practices and procedures can be put in place to guide the Minister about these issues.

Consequently, this subsection is consistent with international obligations; however, as indicated above, compliance with these international obligations ultimately requires governments that make use of subsection 198AB(1) to adhere to the obligation in practice.

Similarly, although the Bill does not provide a mechanism to permit an individual to be exempted from the operation of the amendments, it does not preclude relevant obligations being taken into account prior to the person being taken to an offshore assessment country. 

Conclusion

The Bill is compatible with human rights so long as policies, practices and procedures are in place to ensure that relevant obligations are complied with in relation to the taking of a person to a designated offshore assessment country.

 

Mr Robert Oakeshott           Member for Lyne