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Issue #1485      19 January 2011

Asylum seekers lose appeal rights

Refugee advocacy groups have condemned the Gillard government’s response to the High Court decision on offshore processing. “The government had an opportunity to positively respond to the High Court decision on offshore processing, but it hasn’t. Instead of ending discrimination against offshore asylum seekers, it has acted to compound it,” said Ian Rintoul spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“Not only has the government maintained two different processes for onshore and offshore asylum seekers, they have removed significant appeal rights from offshore asylum seekers.

“It is a despicable decision from a mean-minded government.

“Chris Bowen (Immigration Minister) has not even been honest enough to admit they have taken away appeal rights. There is nothing faster or fairer about this process. Even those found to be refugees at the initial interview will face months in detention while they wait for security clearances, just as they do now,” Rintoul said.

“But worse; under the present scheme, asylum seekers are able to appeal to a Merits Review assessment after their initial refugee status hearing. Under the new scheme, this will be dropped.”

Offshore arrivals will only have access to judicial appeal after what is now called “Independent Protection Assessment”. There will be no avenue for merits review. Judicial review only considers errors or law or procedural fairness. The courts cannot consider the use of incorrect country information, errors due to language or translation problems, mistakes of identity or errors due to stress or mental illness.

The Merits Review process has been an important check to the flaws in offshore processing. Merits Review was overturning over 50 percent of rejection decisions. It provided a small counter to the kind of political interference such as last year’s visa freeze and the government announcement that it expected more asylum seekers to be rejected. Now that is gone.

“Offshore processing should be scrapped”, said Ian Rintoul. “All asylum seekers should have the same rights. But the government is insisting there is one law for those who arrive by plane and another for those who arrive by boat.”  

Next article – At last paid parental leave

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