Policy Agenda

Immigration Detention and Asylum Seekers

For many years Australians have seen rapid changes in the laws and policies governing Australia’s approach to irregular migration and to the treatment of those seeking asylum.

The challenges posed by irregular migration are significant and currently occupy a prominent place in public and parliamentary debates.

The existing laws are complex and have been the subject of frequent amendment that impacts on the rights of those seeking protection in Australia and on the mechanisms of Australia’s immigration system.

As the peak body representing the legal profession in Australia, the Law Council of Australia is uniquely placed to assist the community to understand the legal principles that apply to the development of laws and policies in this area.

For this reason, the Law Council has developed an Asylum Seeker Policy that sets out the rule of law principles and human rights standards that apply and provides a framework against which existing and proposed laws and policies can be assessed.

Central to the Law Council Asylum Seeker Policy is the position that all people seeking Australia’s protection should be treated with humanity and dignity.

The Policy does not seek to prescribe specific policy settings but rather to highlight the relevant rule of law and international human rights law principles that must be observed when developing and implementing asylum seeker laws and policies.  

The Policy reiterates the position that every person has a legal right to seek and enjoy asylum from persecution – a right that is protected under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and a number of other international conventions to which Australia is a party.

Chief among these obligations is the principle of non-refoulement, which prohibits states from returning refugees to countries where his/her life or freedoms are threatened.

The Policy asserts that to be effective and sustainable, Australia’s laws, regulations and policies must be developed with due regard to regional efforts to address irregular migration.

The Policy advocates that the conditions of immigration detention must be humane and dignified, and that asylum seekers with adverse security assessments who face indefinite immigration detention must be given the opportunity to seek meaningful merits review of the basis for such an assessment.

The Policy also sets out the legal framework that applies to the interception of boats carrying asylum seekers by Australian authorities.

The Law Council Asylum Seeker Policy reiterates that Australia is bound to specific international standards to provide fundamental protections for individual human rights. These standards support the Law Council’s fundamental policy position that those persons legitimately seeking recognition as refugees must be treated with fairness, humanity and respect.

Read the Law Council Asylum Seeker Policy

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