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...

Australia’s refugee population: A statistical snapshot of 2014-15

Statistics published by the Immigration Department reveal that during the 2014–15 financial year 6,002 permanent visas were granted to refugees abroad who had applied to be resettled to Australia, representing a decrease of 500 from the previous year. Though the Department has not revealed the countries from which these refugees have fled, consistent with previous years, Australia continues to honour its commitment to resettle refugees from countries with protracted refugee populations such as Myanmar, Afghanistan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Of the 6,002 visas granted to refugees abroad, 1,009 visas or 17 per cent were granted to women considered at particular risk because t... Read more...

‘Politics is the art of the possible’, but is Malcolm Turnbull likely to change the Government’s hard-line approach to asylum seekers?

When Malcolm Turnbull was sworn in as Prime Minister in September 2015, some commentators queried whether a change in leadership might prompt a policy shift in the Government’s handling of asylum seekers (including offshore processing and third country settlement). This Flagpost examines Turnbull’s statements in Parliament on some of the key debates surrounding asylum seekers that have occurred since he entered Parliament in 2004 as an MP in the Howard-led Coalition Government, to when he was Leader of the Opposition and as Prime Minister. Only one month after being sworn in as Prime Minister, Turnbull rose in Parliament to clearly articulate that ‘we recognise that our bor... 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...

Australia’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis

Australia’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis

The escalating Syrian refugee crisis continues to make news headlines around the world and in recent weeks European countries have been gathering to discuss what they can do to assist. Several European countries have committed to increasing resettlement places for Syrian refugees, while Germany has stated that it will process asylum applications from Syrians in Germany rather than returning them for processing to the country in which they first entered the EU, as it is permitted to do under the Dublin II Regulation. Germany expects to receive up to 800,000 asylum applications from Syrians in 2015.  Read more...

Highest levels of global forced displacement on record—World Refugee Day 20 June 2015

On World Refugee Day—celebrated on 20 June every year—the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports on global displacement trends using data collected over the previous calendar year. This time last year the UNHCR reported that the number of refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people worldwide had exceeded 50 million people for the first time since World War II. This year, in its publication Global Trends 2014, the UNHCR is reporting the highest levels of displacement on record—59.5 million people (19.5 million refugees, 38.2 million internally displaced people and 1.8 million asylum seekers).  Read more...

Is Australia any closer to returning failed asylum seekers to Iran?
Ken Hodge [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Is Australia any closer to returning failed asylum seekers to Iran?

On 18 April 2015, Australia’s Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, travelled to Iran to discuss the involuntary return of Iranian nationals who have unsuccessfully sought asylum in Australia. Though her visit was touted as being significant because she was the first Australian Minister to visit Iran in 12 years, it appears on the issue of returnees, her visit did no more than pave the way for further discussions on the issue—and at a lower level.  However, discussions between the two nations have been occurring for some time at a senior level, including a visit to Iran by Australia’s Ambassador for People Smuggling Issues under the previous Government. While Minister Bisho... Read more...

Is Australia pulling its weight when it comes to the resettlement of Syrian refugees?

According to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR ‘the Syrian situation is the most dramatic humanitarian crisis the world has faced in a very long time. Syrians are now the largest refugee population under UNHCR's mandate’. In fact, the UNHCR estimates there to be close to four million registered refugees who have fled Syria into neighbouring countries. David Miliband, writing in The Washington Post has recently claimed that ‘it is well past time for the United States and other Western countries to commit to a dramatic boost in the resettlement of Syrian refugees’. Filipe Gracio from Kings College, London has similarly been crunching the numbers and concluded that ‘Ge... Read more...

A very big year: asylum claims in industrialised countries reach a new high in 2014

A very big year: asylum claims in industrialised countries reach a new high in 2014

Data released by the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) show that 2014 was a big year for asylum seeking, with asylum claims reaching the highest level in over two decades. The UNHCR report Asylum trends 2014: levels and trends in industrialised countries, released on 26 March 2015, provides data on asylum claims lodged in 44 industrialized countries (38 European countries plus the USA, Canada, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia). It reveals some significant trends in asylum claims around the world, including that 2014 saw a striking 45 per cent increase from the previous year in the number of asylum claims lodged. This is the fourth consecutive an... Read more...