The Senate yesterday passed the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill 2015.
UNICEF Australia previously expressed numerous concerns about the Bill in a submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security in July.
UNICEF Australia is pleased that the Bill as passed includes amendments that introduced some safeguards to the law. UNICEF Australia welcomes amendments specifically relating to children, including those which mean:
- the Minister can no longer revoke the citizenship of a child whose responsible parent has had their citizenship revoked due to service in armed forces of an enemy country or a declared terrorist organisation; and
- in certain circumstances, the Minister will now be obliged to consider the best interests of the child as a primary consideration.
UNICEF Australia remains concerned that children may face considerable risk or harm if certain aspects of the legislation are applied. UNICEF Australia’s concerns are that:
- children with dual citizenship can still be subjected to the law and therefore have their Australian citizenship removed in certain circumstances;
- the law is essentially punitive in nature without, in some instances, the procedural safeguards of a criminal court process; and
- a child’s ability to challenge the removal of his or her citizenship will be practically limited.
Children involved in armed conflict and hostilities are, first and foremost, children. Australia has committed previously to protecting children from all forms of violence and exploitation and to demobilize and rehabilitate children recruited or used in hostilities. UNICEF Australia encourages the Australian Government to ensure legislation is consistent with these commitments.
UNICEF Australia will seek to work with Government to monitor the application of the law to ensure that risks are mitigated.