This submission is jointly made with:
- Amnesty International Australia
- Asylum Seeker Resource Centre
- Australian Lawyers for Human Rights
- Human Rights Law Centre
Refugee Advice and Casework Service (RACS)
- Refugee Council of Australia
- SCALES Community Legal Centre
- South East Monash Legal Service
- Visa Cancellations Working Group
This submission outlines the harmful impacts of the Migration Amendment (Clarifying International Obligations for Removal) Act 2021 (Cth) (‘CIO Act’) since its introduction two years ago.
Two years ago, we wrote to the Australian Parliament expressing our concern with the then- Bill. We warned that it would increase the risk of indefinite, arbitrary detention, and did not in fact protect people from being returned to countries where they would be at high risk of harm.
The concerns we raised when the Bill was introduced have unfortunately been realised. The CIO Act has resulted in many people remaining detained arbitrarily and indefinitely, contrary to Australia’s obligations under international human rights law. Since the CIO Act has been in place, refugees and others who have fled harm continue to be returned to harm, in violation of Australia’s non-refoulement obligations. This is because refugees in detention are forced to choose between indefinite detention or ‘voluntary’ removal. Such a choice is neither free nor truly voluntary, and should be understood to be constructive refoulement, in further breach of Australia’s international obligations.
Rather than clarifying Australia’s obligations under international law, the CIO Act has increased the risk that people’s rights will be violated – either through indefinite arbitrary detention or constructive refoulement.
The CIO Act was never genuinely intended to increase Australia’s observance of international law. It was introduced purely to avoid the consequences of a court judgment which could have forced the Government to release some people from immigration detention. Bipartisan support for the CIO Act was ill-informed and misplaced, particularly as the Act was rushed through Parliament without appropriate community consultation or parliamentary scrutiny. The current government has an opportunity to rectify this.
We urge the Australian Government to repeal the CIO Act, and to instead codify Australia’s non-refoulement and human rights obligations into domestic legislation. Refraining from explicit forced removals is not enough – it is critical that the Government finds real, community-based solutions for people facing arbitrary and indefinite detention.