The Malaysian Bar has welcomed the High Court of Australia's ruling that the Gillard Government's Malaysian asylum seeker deal is unlawful.
Speaking to Lawyers Weekly shortly after the decision was handed down, Malaysian Bar president Lim Chee Wee said the organisation had long been highlighting the plight of asylum seekers in Malaysia.
"The Malaysian Bar, together with civil society bodies and the Malaysian National Human Rights Commission, have regularly highlighted to the Government of Malaysia the suffering of the almost 100,000 asylum seekers in Malaysia arising from the lack of legal and effective protection from indiscriminate prosecution as illegal immigrants, and the lack of basic rights of livelihood, healthcare and education," he said.
"That the High Court of Australia held that Malaysia's legal regime was inadequate must be a reminder to Malaysia of the importance of being a signatory to the Refugee Convention and its Protocol."
Lim said that as Malaysia today celebrates its 54th year of Independence, the decision is a "solemn reminder" that for Malaysia to take its rightful place in the international community, it must be a state party to international instruments and recognise and adopt international human rights standards.
He also said that whilst the Malaysia deal has been declared invalid, the Malaysian Bar hopes Australia will continue to co-operate with Malaysia in the resettlement of asylum seekers and persuade the Malaysian Government to improve its treatment of them.
The national president of the Australian Lawyers Alliance, Greg Barns, has also welcomed the decision, and says it sends a clear message that legislators and governments must be cognizant of Australia's international human rights obligations in relation to asylum seekers.
"The decision will bring welcome relief to many asylum seekers who have come to this country seeking a better life and freedom from persecution and fear for themselves and their families," he said.
"The decision also sends a clear message to government that the courts are the protectors of incursions on the rights of individuals by the executive, particularly when that incursion would result in the individual's safety and security being threatened."
Barns also said the decision means countries like Nauru and Papua New Guinea should not be considered as alternative processing centres for asylum seekers and has called on the Australian Government - having given hope to 4,000 asylum seekers in Malaysia that they would be transferred to Australia under the agreement - to meet those obligations and allow them to come to Australia immediately.
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