Migration bill is cruel and must be amended

27th Mar 2024

Time for proper scrutiny of the Migration Amendment (Removal and Other Measures) Bill 2024 is a positive outcome, says the Australian Lawyers Alliance, but the legislation is deeply flawed and must not pass in its current form.

“Australia has obligations to protect people fleeing persecution under international law but these proposed laws, again, have Australia punishing and criminalising people seeking protection here,” said spokesperson for the Australian Lawyers Alliance, Mr Anthony Kerin.

The Bill proposes a new criminal offence for a failure to comply with a direction. The offence has a penalty of five years’ imprisonment or 300 penalty units (or both). There is a mandatory minimum sentence of at least 12 months’ imprisonment. It also allows the Minister for Immigration to designate a country as a removal concern and the processing of visa applications from that country's citizens can be paused.

“The proposed legislation is cruel and, if passed, will embarrass Australia on the international stage,” said Mr Kerin. “It is also an over-reach giving the Minister new and excessive powers.

“A person’s genuine fear of suffering persecution or significant harm if removed to a particular country is not considered a reasonable excuse to avoid criminal prosecution. This is an extraordinary use of the criminal justice system and does not recognise the failures that we know are present in our system of assessing refugee claims.

“There are enormous risks associated with criminalising the fear of persecution.”

The Australian Lawyers Alliance will make a submission to the inquiry.

Tags: Asylum seekers and refugees