For over a decade the Law Council has strongly and consistently opposed mandatory, indefinite and non-reviewable immigration detention and has repeatedly called for the Federal Government to replace that policy with a limited form of reviewable detention.
The Government has made a number of changes to its immigration and asylum seeker policies in recent years in an effort to address the increasing numbers of asylum seekers arriving by boat, and reduce the risk of these asylum seekers perishing at sea. The Law Council has a number of concerns about the Government's policies in this regard, particularly in relation to:
On 28 June 2012, Prime Minister Julia Gillard established a three-member expert panel (the Expert Panel) to advise the Government about the best way to curb the arrival of asylum seekers. The Expert Panel was asked to provide its recommendations to the Prime Minister and the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship in August 2012.
On 13 August 2012 the Expert Panel released its report which included 22 recommendations to the Government. Despite committing to implementing each of the 22 recommendations, to date, the Government has only implemented some of the more punitive recommendations such as the establishment of offshore processing facilities in Papua New Guinea and Nauru.
In light of growing concerns about the Government's response to the Expert Panel's recommendations and the Government's compliance with its human rights obligations, in December 2012, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights launched an inquiry into certain Bills and other legislative instruments that the Government introduced to Parliament to facilitate a number of the Expert Panel's recommendations. The Law Council appeared before the Committee on 17 December 2012. A copy of the Issues Paper that formed the basis of the Law Council's evidence before the Committee is available below.
The Law Council will continue its advocacy to ensure Australia's immigration policy meets international human rights standards and does not continue to be characterised by mandatory, punitive and arbitrary features.