2023 Offshore Refugee Cohort News - April - June
UN refugee chief condemns Australia’s offshore detention regime and slogans like ‘stop the boats’
Filippo Grandi praises Australia’s refugee reset but is ‘very upset’ by UK moves to mimic its offshore detention policy. “Myopic” policies of deterrence, and slogans like “stop the boats” are ineffective in addressing the movement of asylum seekers across the world, the United Nations high commissioner for refugees Filippo Grandi has said, in a major speech urging greater cooperation between nations.
Speaking at the University of Melbourne’s Peter McMullin Centre on Statelessness, Grandi said: “Far too often, rich countries have a myopic approach to global forced displacement and population movements, focusing overwhelmingly on border controls.”
Grandi said governments rarely responded strategically to the arrival of significant numbers of people forced to move.
“They are seen as either someone else’s problem, or something unmanageable to deal with when it reaches domestic borders or shores. The reality is that simple slogans like ‘stop the boats’ are no more effective a solution to this challenge than those that say ‘let them all in’ (Doherty).
April 2023 The AAT: abolishing a system of indefinite torment
The abolition of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) is a crucial part of Attorney General Mark Dreyfus KC’s integrity platform. In the last decade of Coalition governments it had become overwhelmed by partisan appointments, creating a bedlam of incompetence and politically-motivated decisions.
Many of these Coalition appointments were unqualified, with no legal training or experience: there are rumours that AAT librarians had been asked on occasion to write findings. To pour salt on the bleeding wound, salaries of up to $385,000 were granted these politicians’ friends.
The term “competitive authoritarianism” describes the path from an elected (if flawed) democracy to illiberal democracy or authoritarianism. One of the key ways that an elected government can tilt the playing field is to own the referees.
An egregious act by Tony Abbott’s Coalition government in 2015 was the abolition of the Refugee Review Tribunal (RRT) and absorption of its role into the AAT. Expert adjudicators with an understanding of the crises faced by asylum seekers were squandered and replaced by people sympathetic to the Abbott government’s western chauvinism. As a result, roughly 70% of the AAT’s cases tested the claims of refugees refused by an immigration department determined to fast track white au pairs and to reject people it defined as “non-white” seeking safety from genocide (Hamilton).
Shorten, Mitchell clash over overflow of 'asylum sneakers'
Former Labor leader Bill Shorten and 3AW presenter Neil Mitchell have clashed over visa holders trying to claim refugee status in Australia.
Dubbed "asylum sneakers", people on student and holiday visas are arriving in Australia by plane and claiming they are refugees once already here, reports the Daily Telegraph.
There is an estimated 100,000 clogging the Australian migration system, meaning delays for asylum seekers legitimately waiting overseas. But Shorten, who is now Minister for Government Services and NDIS, told Today the number of people doing this is below pre-pandemic levels and directed the blame on the previous government.
"Forty per cent of the people who are doing this have been here more than two years, so they came under the Libs," Shorten said (Livingstone).
This man was almost murdered on Nauru as a refugee. He wants protection in Australia
... People like Rajeskuma Rajagopal do not feel safe on Nauru, so travel at night in groups of at least four other men.
But on February 9, 2021, the Tamil refugee was riding a motorbike alone when he heard a Toyota Harrier revving behind him.
As the car approached, it did not stop but increased speed and knocked him to the ground.
Rajagopal saw five people in the car before the driver changed gear into reverse and drove over him again, dragging him along the road. That’s the last he can remember but health workers familiar with his treatment, who are prevented from speaking publicly due to confidentiality agreements, said he was driven over several times and then kicked repeatedly.
“He was crushed, run over, beaten,” said one person who treated Rajagopal. “He was very lucky to be alive" (Grieve).
Outram gets another 18 months as Border Force commissioner
Australian Border Force commissioner Michael Outram has been reappointed to the top role at the frontline Home Affairs agency, but only until November next year.
A respected former London detective, Outram succeeded Roman Quaedvlieg in 2018 after a period of internal turbulence at the agency that was created after the Australian Customs Service and Immigration’s Border Protection Service were controversially fused together amid an industrial stoush.
“Mr Outram has been with the ABF since 2015, and acted as commissioner from May 2017 before being sworn in as commissioner on May 14, 2018,” home affairs minister Clare O’Neil said.
“He has provided exceptional leadership and stability to the ABF and has brought a sharp focus on driving operational excellence, professionalism, culture and values (Bajkowski).
High court ruling casts doubt on hundreds of Australian visa refusals
Hundreds of visa decisions have been thrown into question by a high court ruling that the government cannot “circumvent” the law by setting policies limiting which cases will be considered by the minister.
On Wednesday, a majority of the high court ruled in favour of two appellants who were unable to have their visa refusals overturned due to a home affairs department policy stating the immigration minister would not consider personal intervention unless the department believed that there were “unique or exceptional circumstances”.
All justices except Simon Steward found that departmental decisions in line with the 2016 policy were not consistent with the Migration Act, which gives the power to intervene to the minister “personally”, meaning decisions cannot be delegated to the departmen (Karp).
Bajkowski, Julian 2023, Outram gets another 18 months as Border Force commissioner, The Mandarin, April 2023, https://www.themandarin.com.au/217327-outram-gets-another-18-months-as-border-force-commissioner/
Doherty, Ben 2023, UN refugee chief condemns Australia’s offshore detention regime and slogans like ‘stop the boats’, The Guardian [online], April 2023, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2023/apr/22/slogans-like-stop-the-boats-do-nothing-to-tackle-the-asylum-seeker-challenge-un-refugee-chief-says?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other
Grieve,Charlotte 2023, This man was almost murdered on Nauru as a refugee. He wants protection in Australia, The Sydney Morning Herald, April 2023, https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/this-man-was-almost-murdered-on-nauru-as-a-refugee-he-wants-protection-in-australia-20230401-p5cxa0.html
Hamilton, Lucy 2023, The AAT: abolishing a system of indefinite torment. The Guardian [online], April 2023, https://johnmenadue.com/the-aat-abolishing-a-system-of-indefinite-torment/
Karp, Paul 2023, High court ruling casts doubt on hundreds of Australian visa refusals, The Guardian, April 2023, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2023/apr/12/high-court-ruling-casts-doubt-on-hundreds-of-australian-visa-refusals?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other
Livingstone, Tom 2023, Shorten, Mitchell clash over overflow of 'asylum sneakers,' Nine Now, April 2023, https://9now.nine.com.au/today/bill-shorten-neil-mitchell-at-blows-over-visa-holders-claiming-refugee-status-in-australia/d4b3a19d-5e83-4104-b078-58ce930da54d