Australian government must pay heed to Human Rights Day themes

As we mark Human Rights Day for 2023, the human rights of people seeking asylum in Australia are under attack. We must stand together to ensure freedom, equality, and justice for all. December 11, 2023

The theme for this year’s Human Rights Day was ‘Freedom, Equality and Justice for All’. And yet, right now, right here in Australia, the human rights of refugees and people seeking asylum are being attacked. Freedom, equality, and justice are being rapidly forgotten in favour of fear mongering and reaction.

Given the country’s record of offshore and onshore detention, this may come as no surprise. But the government is now attempting to undermine orders of the High Court which sought to protect the human rights of those kept in indefinite detention.

The knee-jerk preventative detention legislation rushed through this past week will allow the immigration minister to apply to a court to re-detain certain former immigration detainees. The new laws mean former immigration detainees can be re-detained if they are judged to pose a high risk of committing serious violent or sexual crime.

It comes following the landmark High Court ruling that it is unlawful and unconstitutional for the Australian government to detain people indefinitely in immigration detention, overturning a 20-year legal precedent which was out of step with Australia’s international obligations.

The new preventive detention regime effectively creates a parallel legal system which targets a small group in the community, allowing only migrants and refugees to be imprisoned on the basis of what they might do in the future.

Those who could fall under the new regime include at least 148 people released from immigration detention following the High Court ruling, who have also been subject to draconian laws passed in a panic, including curfews and ankle bracelets.

While community safety cannot be ignored, nor can it be used as an unfounded excuse for the singling out of, and fear-mongering around, certain groups of people.

The irony of these laws passing just days before Human Rights Day should be lost on no one. As the next federal election edges closer, attacks on refugees and people seeking asylum have ramped up. Many of the most vulnerable people in the country are once again being used as a political football by both sides.

At the Asylum Seekers Centre, we have seen how 30 years of rhetoric, legislation, and under-resourcing degrade human rights. And we have fought tirelessly to uphold the rights, humanity, and futures of thousands of people seeking asylum.

As recent events have shown, the human rights of refugees and people seeking asylum in this country are under attack. We must stand together to ensure our community protects freedom, equality, and justice for all.

The transformative power of art in healing and resistance Statement from the Asylum Seekers Centre on the UN resolution for a humanitarian ceasefire