The Federal Government is rushing into the proposed asylum seeker agreement with Malaysia and should give more consideration to its long-term implications, according to the Law Council of Australia (LCA).
In again expressing concern about the proposed deal, LCA president Alexander Ward said that many areas of the asylum seeker policy, including the treatment of unaccompanied minors, is cause for considerable disquiet.
"The Government has said it is confident an agreement will be reached by the end of this week, but considering the long term implications of any agreement Australia enters into regarding asylum seekers, in particular on the individuals themselves, the Law Council is of the view there needs to be further consideration and discussion of the policy and key issues which are still the subject of confusion and uncertainty," he said.
"There has been considerable speculation in the media about what the Australia Malaysian asylum seekers agreement will entail and the human rights implications of the agreement - our Malaysian colleagues have also raised serious concerns about rights of asylum seekers in Malaysia."
Ward said that if the scheme is to proceed, the Government must release details of the proposed agreement in order to allow a considered review of the proposal, especially in relation to the treatment of unaccompanied minors and the human rights protections for any asylum seekers sent to Malaysia under the agreement.
"It is totally unacceptable to deal with minors in this way," Ward said. "The Law Council has previously expressed serious concern about the treatment of asylum seekers in Malaysia given that the country is not a state party to the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and it has opposed this 'solution'.
"Although Malaysia has undertaken not to return asylum seekers to countries where they face persecution, which is one of the core elements of the Refugee Convention, the details of how asylum seekers will be treated needs to be made available, otherwise such concerns will persist."
Ward also called on the Government and Opposition to cease making the issues of asylum seekers a political one.
"Asylum seekers are not commodities to be traded with, nor means to obtain a political advantage," he said. "The much better solution is that the two major Australian political parties agree to take any point scoring and politicisation out of this debate, for the sake of the people who have sought our assistance, and work together on a humane resolution."
The LCA's criticism coincided with the Federal Government's announcement that "Australia has a strong human rights record" despite officially rejecting recommendations put forward at the United Nations Periodic Review that mandatory detention of asylum seekers be reconsidered.
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