UNICEF: Government’s lifetime refugee ban is not reasonable or necessary

SYDNEY, 30 October 2016 – The Australian Government’s draft legislation which seeks to place a lifetime ban on refugees who are in regional processing centers from entering Australia is not a reasonable, necessary or proportionate measure.  Further, it doesn’t move Australia beyond the current impasse where there is no workable resettlement plan for children and families on Nauru, and adult males on Manus. 
“The Australian Government is very proud of its record of hundreds of days with no boat arrivals.  Given their confidence in this approach, the lifetime ban seems like a severe and entirely unnecessary step.  As far as we are aware, not other lifetime ban exists in the Migration Act,” said Amy Lamoin, Head of Policy and Advocacy, UNICEF Australia.
“The Australian Government has an important leadership role in the Bali process, which aims to prevent people smuggling and trafficking in the region.  However it is difficult to see that the lifetime ban has a legitimate aim in line with the Bali Framework.”
The Sixth Regional Conference of the Bali Processes in March 2016 was co-chaired by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.  The session statement emphasizes the importance of the following:
  • A regional approach
  • The need to grant protection to those entitled to it under international law
  • A strict adherence to the principle of non-refoulement
  • Addressing the root causes of displacement
  • A victim centered approach
“Rather than further limiting options for people in Regional Processing Centers, we need greater investment and bilateral and sub-regional cooperation to protect refugees. In effect, this proposed measure squarely punishes refugees more than it creates a credible warning to people smugglers. UNICEF’s global experience has been that the best approach to undermine the business model is to create more safe migration pathways,” said Ms Lamoin.
UNICEF Australia welcomes refugee children on Nauru being exempted from the proposed legislation.  However it notes that in the future, should those children opt to come to Australia through an alternative migration pathway, they will be separated from their families with no option for family reunion.
“Following the unsustainable arrangements on Nauru and Manus, a failed Cambodia deal and this proposed lifetime ban, we urge the government to focus on proactive policy solutions.”
“UNICEF Australia has long advocated for a shift in the Government’s approach to refugee and asylum seekers to one which has regional and international cooperation at its core, and one that works with civil society to find better outcomes. Offshore processing under current arrangements, which fails to provide a resettlement pathway, is simply not sustainable.” added Ms Lamoin.
For further information and interviews, please contact:
Nicole Mackey, UNICEF Australia, 0403 964 334, nmackey@unicef.org.au
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