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New migration bill ‘cruel’, lawyers warn

A “Trump-style” Migration Bill is “cruel” and an embarrassment to Australia, national legal groups say.

user iconNaomi Neilson 03 April 2024 Big Law
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Lawyers from several legal groups said people fleeing dangerous countries will be forced to either return or face imprisonment under the Albanese government’s proposed new migration bill.

The Migration Amendment (Removal and Other Measures) Bill 2024 will grant the minister for immigration “unprecedented” new powers to require a person to do anything necessary to assist in their removal from Australia or face five-year jail terms.

The Human Rights Law Centre (HRLC), along with the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre and Democracy in Colour, said the minister could also impose a “Trump-style” ban to prevent visa applications from citizens in “removal concern countries”.


“As cruel as they are, criminal sanctions will not encourage people to return to face death or torture in their home country,” HRLC acting legal director Sanmati Verma said.

“These measures will further punish people who our government has unlawfully detained and needlessly prolong their detention.”

Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) spokesperson Anthony Kerin said the bill could embarrass Australia “on an international stage”.

“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,” he said.

Kerin added a person’s genuine fear of suffering persecution or significant harm is not a reasonable excuse to avoid 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,” Kerin said.

Asylum Seeker Resource Centre principal solicitor Hannah Dickinson said Australia’s refugee assessment process is “widely recognised as defective”.

“It routinely fails to properly determine people’s refugee status, including under the so-called ‘fast track’ system that the government has recognised as neither fair, thorough nor robust,” she said.

Dickinson said instead of supporting those fleeing violence and death, the government has introduced a bill that will “expose people to unjustified imprisonment, return to persecution, and family separation”.

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