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Migration Legislation Amendment Bill (No.5) 1995 - a denial of Australia's human rights obligations



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MIGRATION LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL (NO. 4) 1995 - ADENIAL OF AUSTRALIA’S HUMAN RIGHTS OBLIGATIONS.

Introduction

SENATOR BRIAN HARRADINE ANSWERS QUESTIONS ABOUT MIG4

The fact th a t the a d m in istratio n of the fertility control policies of the Peoples Republic of C hina (PRC) involves coerced abortions, coerced sterilisations and other grave sanctions is now incontrovertible. The M inister for Im m igration and EthnicAffairs, S enator Bolkus, w ants P a rlia m e n t to p ass a law {M igration L egisla tio n A m e n d m e n t B ill (No.4) which would re p u d ia te A ustralia’s obligation to protect as refugees people in re a l d a n g e r of such p e rs e c u tio n if

r e tu r n e d to C hina.

I s t h i s a m a j o r q u e s t i o n o f h u m a n r i g h t s ?

Sir R onald Wilson, P re s id e n t of th e H u m a n R ights a n d E q u a l O p p o rtu n ity C om m ission, says “Coerced s te rilis a tio n or abortion is a f la g r a n t d isre g a rd of a f u n d a m e n ta l h u m a n rig h t: in my su b m issio n , it is w rong for th e G o v e rn m e n t to a sk th e P a r l ia m e n t a n d th e people of th is

c o u n try to condone th e exclusion of a sy lu m se ek e rs from refugee s t a tu s b a se d on a well-

founded fear of t h a t kind of persecution...” {Senate H ansard, Legal a n d C onstitutional Legislation C om m ittee, F ebruary 6).

W h a t w i l l M I G 4 do?

T he Bill w ould n ot g u a r a n te e p rotection of people a g a in s t forcible r e t u r n to a re a l chance of coerced abortion, coerced sterilisation, and o th e r grave sanctions.

H o w w i l l i t d o t h i s ?

The Bill r e s tric ts th e definition of a “refu g e e ” e n title d to protection. It tells decision m a k e r s a n d c o u rts t h a t “the fe r tility control policies o f the g o v ern m en t o f a foreign co u n try are to be d isreg a rd ed in d e te rm in in g i f a class o f p erso n s is a p a r tic u la r social g ro u p ”. (C lause 2 - proposed S.36(3)(b))

T his would not allow people who have e s ta b lis h e d a well founded fea r of coerced a b o rtio n , s te rilis a tio n or o th e r grave sanctions b ecause of th e o p e ra tio n of C h in a ’s fertility control policies, to be protected as refugees.

W h a t is t h e d e f i n i t i o n o f a “r e f u g e e ”?

The U nited N a tions’ Convention a n d Protocol R ela tin g to the S ta tu s o fR e fu g e e s{th e “Convention”) is a t r e a t y w hich defines as a refugee a p e rs o n who:

“o w in g to w e l l f o u n d e d f e a r o f p e r s e c u t i o n f o r r e a s o n s o f race, religion, nationality, m e m b e r s h i p o f a p a r t i c u l a r s o c i a l g r o u p or p o litica l opinion i s o u t s i d e t h e c o u n t r y o f h i s n a t i o n a l i t y a n d is unable, or o w in g to such fear, is u n w illin g to a v a il h im s e lf o f

the protection o f th a t country....” (Convention, A rticle l)(E m p h a sis added)

This definition of a refugee is acknowledged by A ustralian law.

Therefore, a refugee is a person in re a l d a n g e r of p e rse c u tio n , often for race, religion,

n a tio n a lity or political opinion, b u t so m e tim es be ca u se she or he belongs to a p a r tic u la r s o c ia l g r o u p .

T h is is w hy th e Bill, by sa y in g “the fe r tility control policies o f the g o vern m en t o f a foreign co u n try are to be d isreg a rd ed in d e te rm in in g i f a class o f perso n s is a p a r tic u la r social g ro u p ”,

will stop wom en a n d m en from g e ttin g refugee s t a tu s if th e y a re in real d a n g e r of p e rs e c u tio n for re a so n of being identified and ta r g e tte d by such fe rtility control policies.

W h a t d o e s t h e C o n v e n t i o n m e a n f o r A u s t r a l i a n s ?

A u s tr a lia w as one of the firs t c o u n trie s in th e world to becom e a p a rty to th e C o n v e n tio n . We have freely accepted as our obligation not to r e t u r n people to persecution, w h e n th e y fall

w ith in th e Convention definition of refugee. (Cf. C onvention, A rticles 1 & 33)

Is t h e C o n v e n t i o n d e f i n i t i o n o f “r e f u g e e ” a l i m i t e d o n e ?

T he C onvention d e finition of a refugee is q u ite lim ited . It is not as wide as m a n y w ould w a n t n o r even as b ro ad as th e com m only u n d e rs to o d m e a n in g of a refugee as a p e rso n d isp lac ed by some desperate cause. It does not include people displaced through fear of persecution, b u t unable to cross the borders of th e ir country. It does not include people fleeing from fam ine or n a tu r a l

disasters.

Also, th e C onvention does not oblige u s to ta k e in refu g ees from outside A u s tra lia . It m erely obliges u s not to r e t u r n people hom e from o ur ju ris d ic tio n who have e s ta b lis h e d a well

founded fea r of persecution. (C f Convention, A rticle 33)

H o w m a n y r e f u g e e s a r e w e t a l k i n g a b o u t ?

From December, of 110 applications for refugee s ta tu s from PRC natio n als, p e rsec u tio n -b a se d on fe rtility control policies w as th e sole b a sis in only two cases, p a r t of th e claim in fo u r cases, m e n tio n e d in a n o th e r four cases, n ot re f e r r e d to a t all in 88 cases an d no d a ta a v a ila b le on

th e re m a in in g 12 cases. (D epartm ent o f Im m ig ra tio n a n d E th n ic A ffa irs evidence to S en a te L egal a n d C o n stitu tio n a l L eg isla tio n C om m ittee, M ay 26). T he n u m b e r of p e rso n s (including ch ild ren ) approved b y A u s tra lia for refugee s t a tu s in re c e n t y e a rs o n a ll o f th e C o n v e n t io n g r o u n d s h a s b e en low. In th e 1993 f in a n c ia l year, 703 p e rso n s w ere ap p ro v ed . In th e 1994 financial year, 1,461, a n d for th e 10 m o n th s J u l y ‘94 to A pril th is y e a r 581 p e rs o n s w ere

approved. In th e sam e 10 m o n th s 2,167 people not eligible for refugee s t a tu s w ere a p p ro v e d for e n tr y into A u s tra lia u n d e r th e Special H u m a n ita r ia n P ro g ra m m e and 3,987 u n d e r th e Special A ssistance Category. D e sp ite th e m ed ia hype a n d objections by l a t e n t r a c is ts o u r p ro g ram m es have been fa r from generous.

As J u s tic e M a rcu s E infeld said in his speech to th e M ig ra tio n I n s t i tu t e o fA u stra lia on M arch 16: “C o n tra ry to a p o p u lar view, it m u s t u n fo r tu n a te ly be acknow ledged t h a t o ur g e n e ro sity in th is a re a in re c e n t y e ars h a s been re lu c ta n t, cynical a n d m e a g re ”.

S e n a to r Bolkus claim ed, in th e sa m e in te rv ie w in w hich he a n n o u n c e d th e Bill, t h a t he w ould use influence a n d contacts w ith PRC officials to p re v e n t m ore people from le a v in g C h in a to seek pro tectio n here. If he can influence th e PRC a u th o r itie s to be b e tte r gaolers, w hy c a n ’t he p e rs u a d e th e m to stop h u m a n r ig h ts violations? The b e st solution to any refugee problem

is to stop th e persecution.

W h a t a b o u t C h i n a ’s “O n e C h i l d P o l i c y ”?

T he Bill coldly s ta te s t h a t th e fe rtility control policies of th e G o v e rn m e n t of th e PR C a re a n exam ple of th e policies to be d isre g a rd e d (C lause 2 ■ proposed S .3 6 (4 )). The official application of th e policies involves violations of h u m a n r ig h ts an d w o rk e rs r ig h ts as well as th e r ig h ts of th e child. In m a n y p a rts of th e PRC th e policies a re ro u tin e ly p u rsu e d w ith violence and

coercion including coerced ste rilisatio n an d coerced abortion, prison, “political re-e d u ca tio n ”, re p e a te d fines. Coerced ab o rtio n s a re c a rrie d out up to th e n in th m o n th of pregnancy.

A m nesty I n te rn a tio n a l recently revealed a violent cam paign of persecution in H ubei province a g a in s t those re fu sin g to abide by th e one-child policy. T he c a m p a ig n b e g a n a y e a r ago u n d e r th e slogan “B e tte r m ore graves t h a n m ore t h a n one ch ild ”.

Officials who ro u tin ely use coercion to m e e t ta r g e ts a re p ra is e d by th e C e n tra l G o v e rn m e n t.

T here a re severe p e n a ltie s for fam ily p la n n in g c a d re s w h e re b ir th q u o ta s a re exceeded. In October la s t year, a h o sp ita l d irecto r in H e n a n province w as executed for h e lp in g w om en evade ste rilisatio n , by w ritin g false certificates s ta tin g th e y h a d a lre a d y been sterilised .

Sinologists who m onitor th e a d m in is tra tio n of th e P R C ’s fertility control policies give no credence to a s s e rtio n s t h a t coercion is not in h e r e n tly p a r t of the policy of th e C h in e s e

G overnm ent, b u t j u s t th e “rogue application of a fe rtility control policy” (Second R ea d in g Speech)

Why d o e s S e n a t o r B o l k u s w a n t to c h a n g e A u s t r a l i a n l a w ?

In D ecem ber la s t y e a r a m a r r ie d couple w ith one child w ere given refugee s t a t u s in A u stra lia a fte r e s ta b lis h in g t h a t th e y h a d a well founded fe a r of coerced ste rilis a tio n u n d e r th e “one child policy” if th ey w ere forced to r e t u r n to C hina. T he g o v e rn m e n t h a s no t d e n ie d t h a t th e couple a re in rea l d a n g e r of coerced ste rilisatio n . T he M in is te r ’s delegate h a d re fu se d t h e i r ap p licatio n , b u t th ey a p p e a le d to the Refugee Review T ribunal which g r a n te d th e m s ta tu s . S e n a to r Bolkus th e n a p p e a le d to th e F e d e ra l C o u rt w hich u p h e ld th e g r a n t of refugee s t a t u s by th e T r ib u n a l.T h e C o u r t h e ld t h a t th e c o u p le h a d w e ll fo u n d e d f e a r o f p e r s e c u t i o n , a n d t h a t t h is w a s fo r m e m b e r s h ip o f a p a r t ic u la r s o c ia l g r o u p . T h erefo re th e y w e re

refugees u n d e r the C onvention. The p a rtic u la r social group in th is case w as p a r e n t s w ith one child identified a n d ta rg e te d by C h in a ’s fertility control policies.

It is b e ca u se S e n a to r Bolkus objects to th is ru lin g of th e F e d e ra l C o u rt t h a t he a p p e a le d to

th e Full C o u rt of th e F e d e ra l C o u rt an d h a d Mig 4 in tro d u c e d to change th e law. T h e a p p e a l has concluded b u t th e M in is te r is not even p r e p a re d to a w a it th e ju d g e m e n t on h is a p p e a l

(Case Nos. N G 8794 a n d N G 32794). He h a s told P a r t y W h ip s he w a n ts th e Bill t h r o u g h as u rg e n t governm ent business.

W h a t a r e t h e M i n i s t e r ’s o b j e c ti o n s ?

The M in iste r says th e ju d g e m e n t of the F ederal C ourt th r e a te n s “th e in te g rity a n d effectiveness o f A ustralia’s refugee d e te rm in a tio n sy ste m ”. (Second R ea d in g Speech) He m a i n t a i n s t h a t th e ru lin g d is to rts the m e a n in g of “p a rtic u la r social g ro u p ” w ith in th e C onvention d efinition of a refugee. {The A u stra lia n , M a rch 2, 1995)

A r e t h e M i n i s t e r ’s o b j e c t i o n ’s v a l i d ?

T h e M in is te r ’s s t a t e d o b j e c t io n s to th e c o u r t ’s r u lin g a r e n o n s e n s e . T he M in is te r

dow n p lay s th e fact t h a t as well as being a m em b er of a p a r t i c u l a r social group, a p e r s o n

m u s t h a v e e s t a b lis h e d w e ll fo u n d e d fe a r o f p e r s e c u t io n to b e e li g i b l e fo r r e f u g e e

sta tu s. T h e H ig h C o u r t o fA u s tra lia h a s ru led t h a t t h is m e a n s e s ta b lis h in g “a rea l c h a n c e ” of persecu tio n . The a p p lic a n t m u s t also be outside th e c o u n try of nationality. T he F e d e ra l C o u rt did n o t sa y t h a t a p e rs o n is a refu g e e m ere ly if she or he is a m e m b e r of th e social g ro u p of

perso n s “ίο w hom the fe r tility control policy o f a foreign g o v ern m en t applies, or who objects to such a p o lic y ”. The J u d g e ru le d t h a t th e couple w ere refu g e es n o t j u s t b e c a u s e t h e y

d is a g r e e d w ith th e p o lic y o f th e C h in e s e g o v e r n m e n t , b u t b e c a u s e t h e r e w a s a r e a l

c h a n c e o f t h e ir b e in g c o e r c iv e ly s t e r ilis e d i f r e tu r n e d . In fa c t th e sa m e J u d g e in April

th is y e a r found t h a t a n o th e r couple h a d not e sta b lis h e d t h a t th e i r fea r of s te r ilis a tio n w as

well founded and refu sed to uphold th e ir appeal a n d d e nied th e m refugee s ta tu s .

T h e c o u r t r u lin g d o e s n o t m e a n , a s in f e r r e d b y S e n a t o r B o lk u s , t h a t m i ll i o n s o f

p e o p le w h o a r e n o t in r e a l n e e d o f p r o t e c t io n c a n g e t r e f u g e e s t a t u s . T hese people

only qualify as refugees if th e r e is a real chance th e y will suffer p e rs e c u tio n on c o n v en tio n g ro u n d s if r e tu r n e d . T he sa m e te s t a pplies to th e v a s t n u m b e r s of people who b e long to

religious or political or rac ial groups who disag ree w ith t h e i r g o v e rn m e n ts. A ccording to th e Bill’s E x p la n a to ry M em o ran d u m , claim s on th ese g ro u n d s “will be considered in th e n o rm al w a y ”. N ot so for w om en id e n tifie d a n d ta r g e te d by th e PR C 's fe rtility control policies who faced abortions and/or sterilisations.

W h a t d o e s t h e M i n i s t e r s a y t h e B i l l w i l l d o ?

S e n a to r Bolkus says:

“T h is B ill w ill no t deny access to our p ro tectio n to a p e rso n w ho seeks it as a m e m b e r o f a p a r t i c u l a r p r e - e x i s t i n g s o c i a l g r o u p , or on a n y o f the other C o n ven tio n g ro u n d s, who has a w ell fo u n d e d fea r o f persecution because o f fe r tility control policies. W hat th is m eans is th a t a p e rso n fro m a p a rtic u la r social group su ch as a village or w ork p lace who is

subjected to the rogue application o f a fe r tility control policy in a m a n n e r w hich a m o u n ts to p ersecution could still have a claim accepted u n d er the legislation in tro d u ced today.” (Second R ea d in g Speech)

T h is is n o t c o r r e c t. In th e opinion of law yers, in c lu d in g S ir R onald W ilson, th e Bill does no t allow refugee s t a t u s for “a person fro m a p a r tic u la r social group such as a village or w ork place w ho is subjected to the rogue ap p lica tio n o f a fe r tility control p o licy in a m a n n e r w hich a m o u n ts to p ersecu tio n ”

T his is b e ca u se a p e rso n is recognised as a refugee only if th e p e rs e c u tio n fe a re d is “fo r

r e a s o n s o f race, religion, nationality, m e m b e r s h ip o f a p a r t ic u la r s o c ia l g r o u p or

political opinion”.

No w om an is s te r ilis e d b ecause she comes from “a p a rtic u la r village or w ork p la c e ”. S h e is ste rilised because she h a s one child and u n d e r th e fe rtility control policies is no t p e rm itte d another.

W h a t a b o u t p r o t e c t i o n o f w o m e n ? The g o v e rn m e n t professes to be “concerned to ad d ress issues w hich m ig h t arise fro m g en d er based p ersecu tio n ” (Second R eading Speech), b u t th e Bill c o n tra d ic ts su c h a concern. Those whose fe rtility is m onitored, whose sexual activity is controlled, who a re subjected to “political re -e d u c a tio n ” in o rd e r to force subm ission, whose p reg n a n cie s a re a b o rte d r ig h t up to te rm ,

a n d whose fe rtility is d e stro y ed are, in th e fir s t place, th e women of C h in a . I t is o ften g irls

who a re destroyed, by abortion or by infanticide, be ca u se of th e stro n g c u ltu r a l p r e s s u r e for p a r e n ts to h ave a boy as t h e i r sole, p e rm itte d child. T he com bined effect of th e P R C ’s fertility control policies a n d p red elictio n for a m ale child is d isa stro u s. The r e s u l ts of a 1992 C h in a n a tio n a l su rvey show ed th e sex ratio of new borns w as 118.5 boys for e very 100 girls.

I s M I G 4 a b a d h u m a n r i g h t s e x a m p l e ?

J u s tic e M a rcu s E in fe ld p o inted out t h a t if th is Bill is p a sse d , we will be th e fir s t c o u n try in

th e w orld to p a ss a law to lim it th e Convention d e finition of a refugee, “a n e x tr a o r d in a r y fir s t for A u s tra lia of w hich we should actually be a s h a m e d .” (A ddress to M ig ra tio n I n s t i tu t e of Australian).

W h o is o p p o s e d t o t h i s B i l l ?

A m nesty In te r n a tio n a l, th e H u m a n Rights and E q u al O p p o rtu n ity Com m ission, th e Refugee Council of A u stra lia , Women A g a in st MIG 4, th e L aw Council of A u s tra lia , th e Legal Aid C om m ission of N ew S o u th Wales, the Refugee Advice and C asew ork Service, th e E th n ic C om m unities Council, th e Indo-C hina RefugeeAssociation, Victorian Council for Civil Liberties, t h e A u s tra lia n Law Reform Commission, H u m a n R ights activists, p ro m in e n t academ ics, church lea d ers, New S o u th Wales B a r Association and m a n y o rd in a ry w om en a n d m en vigorously oppose th is Bill. .

I f t h e B i l l p a s s e s , w h a t m e s s a g e d o e s i t s e n d ?

It says to th e p e r p e tr a to r s of h u m a n rig h ts v iolations t h a t th e N a tio n a l P a r lia m e n t of

A u s tr a lia is p r e p a r e d to “d is r e g a r d ” and t u r n a blin d eye to th e cruel an d i n h u m a n e t r e a t m e n t th e y inflict upon in n o c e n t wom en and men.

A u s tr a lia w ould be exposed to th e world as failing in a crucial t e s t of a civilised society.

30 M a y 1995