The Gillard Government's move to amend the Migration Act to allow asylum seekers to be sent to Malaysia is dangerous and hypocritical, according to refugee law experts.
The Government is seeking changes to the Act, through the Migration Legislation Amendment (Offshore Processing and Other Measures) Bill 2011, in the wake of the High Court's decision last month which found the asylum seeker swap deal between Australia and Malaysia to be unlawful under the Act.
Amongst other things, the Government hopes to amend the laws to allow unaccompanied minors to be sent to Malaysia and other declared countries.
According to Queensland University of Technology refugee law expert Dr Angus Francis, if the amendments get through Parliament, the Malaysia deal will effectively be back on the table, thus putting lives in danger.
"The more appropriate and humane response - and one in compliance with our international obligations - is to process asylum seekers onshore," he said.
The Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) has also slammed the move, labeling the decision "breathtakingly hypocritical", especially following Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd's attempts this week to return a 14-year-old Australian boy - detained in Bali after being arrested for possession of drugs - to his parents.
"The [Bill] totally ignores the obligation the federal government has as guardian of unaccompanied children arriving by boat to ensure their security and wellbeing. Under these laws, asylum seekers - including vulnerable and traumatised children - will be thrown into planes, strapped to their seats and packed off with little more dignity than cattle," said ALA national president Greg Barns.
"There they will be dumped and potentially subjected to arbitrary punishment such as caning and denied access to health care ... Australia is guilty of double standards here. On the one hand, the federal government is rightly throwing political and diplomatic resources at ensuring the wellbeing of one of its citizens, a 14-year-old boy being detained in Bali on drugs charges, but on the other we are prepared to send to another country a child of the same age with no guarantees about their wellbeing."
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