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Three-year temporary refugee visa's should be opposed by Labor: Law Council

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LC A - Media Release - 22 November 1999 Page 1 o f |

22 November 1999 fAit(arts f

Three-Year TemporarvLRefuqee^Visas Should be Opposed by Labor: Law Afe J Council

The Law Council of Australia has called on the Labor Party to oppose a Federal Government regulation which discriminates between genuine refugees according to their mode of entry into Australia, by allowing unauthorised arrivals only three-year temporary visas.

The Council is concerned that the new regulation breaches Australia's international legal obligations relating to refugees.

It is understood that the Australian Democrats will this week move a disallowance motion on the Migration Amendment Regulation 1999 (No. 12) , and the Council has urged the Labor Party to support the motion.

However, the Council has indicated that it does not oppose the general thrust of the Government's Border Protection Bill , which would allow Australian authorities to intercept boats and aircraft both inside and outside Australia’s borders.

Under the Migration Amendment Regulation 1999 (No. 12) , genuine refugees who arrive unauthorised—including 'boatpeople' or those travelling on false documents—will only be entitled to a three-year temporary visa. Genuine refugees—including those who arrive in Australia on student or tourist visas—will continue to be eligible for permanent residency.

“These new regulations will create a new sub-class of genuine refugees—refugees with no right to sponsor family or to access some forms of education; refugees with no automatic entitlement to Medicare or social security, and refugees who will face extra difficulties in finding employment because of the visas they are granted” said the President of the Law Council of Australia, Dr Gordon Hughes.

“The Law Council is concerned that this regulation breaches Australia's international legal obligations under the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. In particular, under Article 31 of the Refugee Convention, Australia is prohibited from penalising a refugee on account of their illegal entry.

“The Convention recognises that real refugees typically have no choice but to flee from their situation without complying with the niceties of immigration laws.

“All genuine refugees—that is, people who meet the international Convention definition of refugee, in their having a well-founded fear of persecution or torture, or any form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment on return to their country of origin—should be treated equally, regardless of whether their arrival in Australia was authorised or not.”

Media contact: Patrick Daley on (02) 6247 3788 bh or 0419 269 855 ah. 24/11/1999