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Flagpost is a blog on current issues of interest to members of the Australian Parliament

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What next for the refugees and failed asylum seekers on Manus Island?

The Australian-funded regional processing centre on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea (PNG), is due to close next week on 31 October. This will bring to an end, after five years, the Australian Government practice of offshore processing of asylum seekers on Manus Island (the processing centre on Nauru remains open however). With less than a week until its closure, over 600 men remain in the processing centre. Most of these have been found to be refugees (141 have been found not to be refugees). Their options , according to Australian officials, are to resettle in PNG, transfer to Nauru and hope for resettlement in the USA, or return to the country from which they fled.  Read more...

Back here again - safe zones in Syria

The creation of a safe zone in Syria was consistently ruled-out by the Obama Administration as a fraught, expensive and partial solution to the crisis, despite international calls for action. In a 10 February interview, Syrian President Assad alluded to some of these complexities and rejected President Trump’s plan to establish such an area in Syria.   Read more...

Senate agitates for immigration detention reform

When the apparently uncontroversial Migration and Maritime Powers Amendment Bill (No.1) 2015 was introduced into Parliament in September 2015, the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Peter Dutton noted that the Bill would simply strengthen and clarify the legal framework so that the Migration Act 1958 (the Act) would be interpreted consistently with the original policy intention. Though the Minister probably would have been expecting the Opposition to support the omnibus Bill, he may not have envisaged they would also support the suite of amendments moved by the Australian Greens. Though the Government took the view that the amendments, which secured passage in the Senate last we... Read more...

Whistle-blowing under the Border Force Act: Three months on

Despite both major political parties agreeing that the Border Force Bill 2015 (introduced into Parliament in February this year) would be dealt with as non-controversial legislation, since its commencement on 1 July 2015, it has proved to be anything but uncontroversial. Perhaps the most contentious aspect of the Border Force Act (the Act) has proved to be the secrecy provision contained in section 42 of the Act which provides that an ‘entrusted person’ commits an offence if they disclose ‘protected information’. Such an offence is punishable by a maximum two year term of imprisonment. However, there are a number of exceptions that can apply, most notably where the m... Read more...

Minister reports to Parliament on processing arrangements in Nauru and PNG for 2013—14

On 4 December 2014, the last scheduled parliamentary sitting day for the year, a report was tabled in Parliament on the regional processing arrangements for unauthorised maritime arrivals. The Minister’s report covers arrangements made during the period 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2014. The statutory obligation to produce such a report comes from section 198AJ of the Migration Act which was inserted by the former Government to give effect to a recommendation of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee. The Committee considered that ‘a comprehensive reporting requirement would be desirable, to ensure transparency and accountability in relation to regional processing arrang... Read more...

Syria: losing ground in the fight to eradicate polio

Polio resurfaced in Syria late last year, and has now been found in Iraq as well, leading to concerns that this could reverse gains in international efforts to eradicate the virus. A side effect of the conflict in Syria, now running for over three years, is that for many children vaccinations have lapsed.  According to the BBC‘Vaccination rates in Syria fell from 91 per cent of children before the war to an estimated 68 per cent in 2012. But those are national figures. In rebel-held territory, where all the polio cases so far have occurred, immunisation levels are much lower’. In some cases, the Syrian Government has been accused of deliberately excluding rebel-held areas ... Read more...

Offshore processing: lessons from the ‘Pacific Solution’

On 9 May 2014, the High Court of Australia is scheduled to begin considering the legality of the former Government’s decision to classify Papua New Guinea (PNG) as a regional processing country. Amongst other things, the plaintiff argues that the former Labor Government failed to take into account advice from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) which stated there were no laws and procedures in place in PNG for the determination of refugee status or immigration officers with the experience, skill or expertise to undertake refugee status determination (RSD). When the Government processed asylum seekers under the so-called ‘Pacific Solution’ (2001—2008) it mo... Read more...

Coalition and Labor asylum policies - how do they compare?
Ken Hodge [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Coalition and Labor asylum policies - how do they compare?

In response to a rise in the number of asylum seekers arriving by boat in Australia, both Coalition and Labor governments have been under increasing pressure for many years to develop policies that are seen to address border security concerns and combat people smuggling. While there are some policy differences, both Labor and the Coalition are in general agreement on many of the key measures in place to deal with these issues, including mandatory detention for unauthorised boat arrivals introduced in the 1990s by the Keating (Labor) Government; and offshore processing arrangements in the Pacific first introduced by the Howard (Coalition) Government in 2001. Read more...

Abolishing free legal advice to asylum seekers — who really pays?

One week before the 2013 federal election, the Coalition announced that, if elected, it would no longer provide funding for free legal advice to asylum seekers who have arrived without a valid visa. The primary concern for the Coalition was clearly the increasing cost of providing this service. However, one month prior to the Coalition’s announcement, the Government had entered into a regional resettlement arrangement with Papua New Guinea which meant all future boat arrivals would be processed abroad with no access to the Immigration Advice and Application Assistance Scheme (IAAAS). Nonetheless, there are estimated to be in excess of 30,000 asylum seekers in Australia that will be affected ... Read more...

A return to Temporary Protection Visas?

On 18 October 2013 the newly elected Coalition Government registered an amendment to the Migration Regulations 1994 providing for the re-introduction of Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs). Unsurprisingly, given their vocal opposition to TPVs, the Australian Greens have moved to disallow the Regulation. This FlagPost provides an historical overview of the TPV, and outlines the arrangements that will be in place should the new TPV system withstand the disallowance motion.The TPV was first introduced by the Howard Government in October 1999. A TPV was valid for three years, after which time a person’s need for protection was reassessed. Holders of TPVs were allowed to work, and given access to m... Read more...

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