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Greens can provide justice for asylum seekers

Greens can provide justice for asylum seekers

Election 2010: The Greens' policies are far better than those of the Government or Coalition in r


Election 2010: The Greens' policies are far better than those of the Government or Coalition in regards to how asylum seekers are treated and processed, says the Law Council of Australia.

According to the Law Council, the response from the Australian Labor Party (ALP) and the Coalition's to a pre-election questionnaire indicated that neither party would do much to address the Law Council's fears about the treatment of asylum seekers if they won the election.

The Greens, on the other hand, have shown themselves to be far more receptive to considering the Law Council's stance on how asylum seekers should be treated.

"The Greens' policies more directly respond to the Law Council's concerns about mandatory detention, offshore processing and access to legal advice and judicial review mechanisms," said Law Council president Glenn Ferguson.

"The Greens commit to abolishing mandatory detention and offshore processing and guarantee the right to legal aid and judicial review for asylum seekers."

The Law Council recently invited political parties contesting the 2010 Federal Election to provide their policy position on a range of crucial national policy issues, including asylum seekers.

And while responses from both the ALP and Coalition fell well below Law Council expectations, Ferguson said the ALP's commitment to restricting mandatory detention to particular groups for limited purposes, and to refrain from keeping children and their families in detention centres did go some way to addressing these concerns.

"Although the ALP in government introduced legislation to implement these policies, the relevant Bill lapsed when Parliament was dissolved, and the Law Council calls on the next Government to reintroduce such a Bill and to commit to its speedy passage," Ferguson said.

The Law Council is particularly apprehensive about asylum seekers' access to legal advice - a concern exacerbated by the Coalition's planned abolition of free legal advice to offshore entry persons, and the ALP's decision not to provide access to the Immigration Advice and Application Assistance Scheme for Afghan asylum seekers.

According to Ferguson, vulnerable people such as asylum seekers should be allowed access to advice regarding Australian legal processes, and if this does not occur, justice is denied.

The Law Council said it is disappointed that neither major party answered their questions about conditions for offshore processing of asylum claims, or their conformation with international treaties.

"Unless the major parties are prepared to indicate what conditions will apply to any new offshore processing initiatives, the Law Council remains concerned these initiatives may not meet Australia's obligations under international law," Ferguson said.

>> What do election promises mean for lawyers? Click here to read the latest legal-related election news


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