Refugee swap deal: Extension of injunction welcomed

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Suaram welcomes the extension of the Australian High Court’s temporary injunction of the deportation of 16 asylum seekers under the controversial asylum swap deal between the Australian and Malaysian governments.

Sydney World Refugee Day march - Photograph: Peter Boyle

On 7 August, an Australian refugee lawyer, David Manne had launched proceedings in the High Court in Melbourne and succeeded to temporarily stop and prevent the deportation of the asylum-seekers which comprises accompanied and unaccompanied minors.

The first temporary high court’s injunction will only be in force until 4.15pm (AEST), on 8 August, pending the hearing of another application in High Court in Canberra at 2.15pm (AEST). The 8 Auguest hearing in the High Court in Canberra decided to extend the asylum swap injunction (until a ruling is made at the end of a full hearing that begins later this month).

Suaram is in full support of the legal challenge made by the Australian lawyers. We hope that the Australian High Court will uphold the 1951 Refugee Convention in its decision- making process (at full hearing).

Suaram believes that asylum-seekers arriving in Australia have the right to seek asylum and claim refugee protection. As a state party to the 1951 Refugee Convention, Australia is showing a bad example in itsr treatment of asylum seekers by sending them to Malaysia and to other states in the region that have not ratified the Refugee Convention.

At the same time, we believe that the choice of Malaysia, which is expected to be a country for off-shore processing, is also an erroneous decision made by the Australian government. Australia has disregarded Malaysia’s record of poor treatment of asylum seekers and refugees, and her status as a non-state party to the 1951 Refugee Convention.

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Suaram also believes that the suicide attempts and hunger strikes launched by the asylum seekers at Christmas Island recently demonstrated the inhumane and vigorous elements enshrined within the asylum swap arrangement.

Once again, Suaram strongly condemns the arrangement as it is a clear violation and denial of the rights of asylum-seekers to seek asylum in Australia and to obtain refugee protection. The argument that the deal would reduce people smuggling and the trafficking business model is an unjustified security concern.

We are of the view that these transnational crimes related to migration such as human trafficking and smuggling must not be treated merely as a crime but must also include and consider the human rights of the individuals involved. States must also take into consideration that refugees fleeing harm and persecution sometimes use whatever means they deem necessary to seek protection. There is no compromise for human rights, and all crime prevention plans undertaken must be consistent and in line with human rights principles.

Suaram therefore urges the Australian and Malaysian governments to abandon the asylum seekers-for-refugees swap deal and urge both governments to ensure that future bilateral or regional cooperation deals related to human trafficking and smuggling include the highest respect for the human rights of the trafficked and smuggled persons.

Andika Ab Wahab
Refugee Coordinator
Suaram

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