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Report of the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers released

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13th August 2012

Report of the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers Released

The Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers today released its Report containing 22 key recommendations to Government on the policy options available to prevent asylum seekers risking their lives on dangerous boat journeys to Australia. (See recommendations attached).

The independent Panel was appointed by the Prime Minister on 28 June and comprises Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston AC, AFC (Ret’d), Professor Michael L’Estrange AO and Mr Paris Aristotle AM.

Air Chief Marshal Houston (Ret’d) said the Panel had proposed a way forward that it believed would address the challenges that Australia faced over the short, medium and longer term.

“The Panel has made 22 key recommendations to Government. These are an integrated set of proposals,” Air Chief Marshal Houston (Ret’d) said.

“We recommend a policy approach that is hard-headed but not hard-hearted. That is realistic not idealistic. That is driven by a sense of humanity as well as fairness.”

Professor L’Estrange said the Panel believed that Australian policy settings and regional arrangements needed to be adjusted.

“It is the Panel’s view that the balance of risk and incentive must be shifted in favour of regular migration pathways and established international protections, and against dangerous maritime migration,” Professor L’Estrange said.

“We also believe that a ‘no advantage’ principle should apply whereby irregular migrants gain no benefit by choosing to circumvent regular migration mechanisms.”

From late 2001 to June this year, 964 asylum seekers and crew have been lost at sea on boats carrying asylum seekers to Australia. Of these, 604 people have lost their lives since October 2009.

Mr Aristotle said the Panel was deeply concerned about the tragic loss of life at sea.

“To do nothing is unacceptable - so we have proposed a new approach. One that is comprehensive, integrated and equitable,” Mr Aristotle said.

“We believe our recommendations meet the tests of reasonableness, fairness and humanitarian need.”

Air Chief Marshal Houston (Ret’d) said the Panel believed the prospect of further losses of life at sea was one that demanded urgent and decisive action on the part of the Australian Parliament.

“The current impasse must be resolved. The Panel hopes our recommendations can contribute to a productive outcome,” Air Chief Marshal Houston (Ret’d) said.

The Panel’s Report is available on online at:

Media contact: Tanya Cleary. M: 0418 615 280.

Report of the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers, August 2012

su MMar Y of re Co MMendat Ions


Recommendation 1 The panel recommends that the following principles shou ld shape austral ian policymaking on asylum seeker issues (paragraphs 2.6-2.22):

y The imp

lementation of a strategic, comprehensive and integrated approach that establishes short, medium and long-term priorities for managing asylum and mixed migration flows across the region.

y The pro

vision of incentives for asylum seekers to seek protection through a managed regional system.

y The fac

ilitation of a regional cooperation and protection framework that is consistent in the processing of asylum claims, the provision of assistance while those claims are being assessed and the achievement of durable outcomes.

y The app

lication of a ‘no advantage’ principle to ensure that no benefit is gained through circumventing regular migration arrangements.

y promoti

on of a credible, fair and managed austral

ian humani

tarian progra


y adher

ence by austral

ia to its international obligations.

Australia’s Humanitarian Program

Recommendation 2 The panel recommends that austral ia’s humani tarian p rogram be i ncreased and refocused:

y The humani

tarian progra

m be immediately increased to 20,000 places per annum (paragraphs 3.3-3.8).

y of the 20,0

00 places recommended for the humani

tarian progra

m, a minimum of

12,000 places should be allocated for the refugee component which would double the current allocation (paragraphs 3.3-3.8).

y s ubjec

t to prevailing economic circumstances, the impact of the progra

m increase

(recommended above) and progress in achieving more effective regional cooperation arrangements, consideration be given to increasing the number of places in the humani

tarian progra

m to around 27,000 within five years (paragraphs 3.3-3.8).

y The humani

tarian progra

m be more focused on asylum-seeker flows moving from source countries into s outh- east asia (pa

ragraphs 3.3-3.9).

Report of the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers, August 2012

Regional engagement

Recommendation 3 The panel recommends that in support of the further development of a regional cooperation fra

mework on protection and asylum systems, the austra lian gover

nment expand its relevant

capacity-building initiatives in the region and significantly increase the allocation of resources for this purpose (paragraphs 3.26-3.28).

Recommendation 4 The panel recommends that bilateral cooperation on asylum seeker issues with Indone

sia be advanced as a matter of urgency, particularly in relation to:

y The al

location of an increased number of human

itarian progr

am resettlement places

for Indonesia (paragraphs 3.20-3.22).

y enhan

ced cooperation on joint surveillance and response patrols, law enforcement and search and rescue coordination (paragraphs 3.20-3.22).

y chang

es to austra

lian law in relation to Indonesian minors and others crewing unlawful boat voyages from Indonesia to austr

alia (paragraphs 3.20-3.22).

Recommendation 5 The panel recommends that austra lia continue to develop its vitally important cooperation with Malaysia on asylum issues , including the management of a substantial

number of refugees to be taken annually from malay

sia (paragraphs 3.23-3.24).

Recommendation 6 The panel recommends a more effective whole-of-government strategy be developed for

engaging with source countries for asylum seekers to austra

lia, with a focus on a

significant increase in resettlement places provided by austra

lia to the middl

e east an

d asia


gions (paragraphs 3.29-3.33).

Regional processing

Recommendation 7 The panel recommends that legislation to support the transfer of people to regional pro

cessing arrangements be introduced into the austr

alian p arli

ament as a matter

of urgency (paragraphs 3.54 and 3.57). This legislation should require that any future designation of a country as an appropriate place for processing be achieved through a further legislative instrument that would provide the opportunity for the austr


p arli

ament to allow or disallow the instrument (paragraph 3.43).

Report of the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers, August 2012

Recommendation 8 The panel recommends that a capacity be established in n auru as s oon as practical to process the claims of I mas transfer

red from australi

a in ways consistent with australi

an and

nauruan r

esponsibilities under international law (paragraphs 3.44-3.55).

Recommendation 9 The panel recommends that a capacity be established in png as soon as p ossible to process the claims of I mas transfer

red from australi

a in ways consistent with the

responsibilities of australi

a and png under i

nternational law (paragraphs 3.56-3.57).

Recommendation 10 t he p anel recommends that the 2011 Arrangement between the Government of Austr

alia and the Government of Malaysia on Transfer and Resettlement (Malaysia agreement)

be built on further, rather than being discarded or neglected , and

that this be achieved through high-level bilateral engagement focused on strengthening safeguards and accountability as a positive basis for the australi

an parliam


reconsideration of new legislation that would be necessary (paragraphs 3.58-3.70).

Family reunion

Recommendation 11 The panel recommends that the current backlog in the shp be addr essed as a means of reducing the demand for family reunion through irregular and dangerous maritime voyages to austral

ia, and that this be achieved through removing family

reunion concessions for proposers who arrive through irregular maritime voyages - with these proposers to instead seek reunion through the family stream of the migration program (parag



Recommendation 12 The panel recommends that in the future those who arrive in austral ia through

irregular maritime means should not be eligible to sponsor family under the shp but


uld seek to do so within the family stream of the migratio

n program (

paragraph 3.71).

Report of the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers, August 2012

Other recommendations

Recommendation 13 The panel recommends that austra lia promote more actively coordinated strategies among traditional and emerging resettlement countries to create more opportunities

for resettlement as a part of new regional cooperation arrangements (paragraphs 3.35-3.37).

Recommendation 14 The panel recommends that the Migration Act 1958 be amended so tha t arrival anywhere on austra

lia by irregular maritime means will not provide individuals with a different lawful status than those who arrive in an excised offshore place (paragraphs 3.72-3.73).

Recommendation 15 The panel recommends that a thorough review of refugee status determination ( rsd )


uld be timely and useful (paragraphs 3.74-3.76).

Recommendation 16 The panel recommends that a more effective whole-of-government strategy be developed to ne

gotiate better outcomes on removals and returns on failed asylum seekers

(paragraphs 3.81-3.83).

Recommendation 17 The panel recommends that disruption strategies be co ntinued as part of any comprehensive approach to the challenges posed by people smuggling and that relevant austra

lian agencies be resourced with appropriate funding on a continuing basis for this purpose (paragraphs 3.84-3.86).

Recommendation 18 The panel recommends that law enforcement age ncies in austra lia continue their activities in countering involvement of austra

lian residents who are engaged in funding or facilitating

people smuggling operations (paragraph 3.87).

Recommendation 19 The panel notes that the conditions necessary for effective, lawful and safe turnback of i

rregular vessels carrying asylum seekers to austr

alia are not currently met, but

that this situation could change in the future, in particular if appropriate regional and bilateral arrangements are in place (paragraphs 3.77-3.80).

report of the exper t panel o n asylu m s eeke rs, augus t 2012

Recommendation 20 The panel recommends that austra lia continue to work with regional countries in a focused way to develop joint operational guidelines for managing s earc

h and r escu


(sar ) activ

ities in the region and to address the need for any further regional and national codification of arrangements across sar jur

isdictions (paragraphs 3.88-3.90).

Recommendation 21 The panel recommends that, in the context of a review of the efficacy of the recommendations put f

orward in this repor t, the linkage between the onshore and offshore components of the human

itarian p rogr

am be reviewed within two years.

Recommendation 22 The panel recommends that the incompleteness of the current evidence base on asylum iss

ues be addressed through a well-managed and adequately funded research program engaging government and non-government expertise (paragraphs 3.38-3.40).