A legal professional body has lashed out at a federal opposition claim that if elected it would reintroducee five-year mandatory sentences of asylum seeker crews, just days after the government announced a reversal on a similar long-held policy.
“Professional people smugglers aren’t the only occupation trading in human misery in Australia – opportunistic politicians are capitalising on fear and ignorance with a quick easy vote-grab that harshly punishes some of the world’s most vulnerable people,” Australian Lawyers Alliance national President, Tony Kerin, said today.
Judges have previously spoken out about the way such laws remove judicial discretion and impose long sentences on people involved in varying degrees with alleged people smuggling activity.
“These judges have only just finished breathing a collective sigh of relief following a government announcement of an end to mandatory sentencing and now this from the opposition,” Kerin said.
A plan to impose an extra two years on top of the three previously imposed will “rob two extra years of people’s lives”, he said.
An Australian Human Rights Commission report ‘the Age of Uncertainty’, released this year, shows minors are increasingly being swept up under such laws.
“We have also heard stories of people’s families dying while they are in prison, because such families cannot afford simple medical treatment for asthma for children while the main breadwinner is imprisoned in Australia.
“And children are being taken out of school because families can’t afford to keep them there.
“Starvation and hunger make desperate people do desperate things. Locking such people up unfairly for years only threatens life, destroys families and increases mental suffering for people who have so little,” Kerin said.