The ASC’s submission to the inquiry into Labor’s draconian deportation bill

The ASC calls for the proposed deportation laws to be abandoned, outlining several concerns and the detrimental impact to people we support April 17, 2024

The Asylum Seekers Centre (ASC), established in 1993, provides practical help for people seeking asylum in New South Wales and advocates for fair and humane policies for refugees and people seeking asylum.

The ASC welcomes the opportunity to submit to the inquiry into the Migration Amendment (Removal and Other Measures) Bill 2024 (hereinafter referred to as “the Bill”) and to highlight that we oppose the Bill in its entirety, as well as the manner in which it has been introduced to and pushed through Parliament.

Under international law, everyone has the right to seek safety from persecution. People who do so are some of the most vulnerable in the world, having been forced to leave their homes, families, communities, and countries.

The ASC believes that this Bill represents one of the most callous, dangerous, and deliberately punitive policy initiatives related to people seeking asylum not only in Australia, but in democratic nations around the world. It has been compared, unfavourably, to former-President Trump’s Muslim ban. It has caused genuine shock from even the most seasoned observers, both inside and outside of Parliament.

The introduction of this Bill has had a real and devastating impact on people seeking asylum. The ASC received multiple reports of distress from people we support upon hearing news of the Bill. One person reported having panic attacks and heart palpitations when considering the impact of the Bill on their family.

While we are pleased to submit to this inquiry, we note that the opportunity to do so is as a result of urgent action by unlikely political allies to subject the Bill to necessary scrutiny and debate. This follows an alarming and escalating pattern of the government attempting to rush through knee-jerk, punitive legislation without due process.

At the ASC, we always seek to centre the voices of those with lived experience. Our submission seeks to demonstrate the real consequences this Bill is already having, and the potential for further human suffering were it to become law.

Response to the Migration Amendment (Removal and Other Measures) Bill 2024


The ASC believes this Bill is dangerous, ill-conceived, and poorly delivered. Our strong recommendation is for the government to abandon it in its entirety. Instead, it should prioritise humane, evidence-based policy which recognises and reflects its legal and moral obligations.

The ASC stands ready, alongside our peers in the humanitarian and human rights sector, to consult with the government and aid the development of better policy which ensures everyone has the right to seek safety from persecution, while also recognising the need to design a fair and effective system, and ensure social cohesion.

Risk of removal for those who do have protection claims but have not had a fair hearing or review

People who are afraid to return to their home country due to fear of persecution often have protection claims that have not been assessed or have been unfairly assessed through flawed processes, such as the ‘Fast Track’ system under which around thousands of people in Australia have been kept in limbo for a decade.

The Labor party has acknowledged this system is unfair, called for the abolition of the ‘Fast Track’ review in its 2021 platform, and has said it “does not provide a fair, thorough and robust assessment process for persons seeking asylum”. Concerningly, there are no protections in this Bill for people who were subjected to, and failed by, the Fast Track system.

People who have been trapped in the appeals process for years already experience serious mental health issues as a result of the uncertainty and unfairness caused by a broken system. Many people on bridging visas still awaiting a fair hearing after years of living in limbo stand to be further impacted by this Bill.

One person supported by the ASC is currently appealing to the Federal Circuit Court for the second time, having been sent back and forth between the court and the Immigration Assessment Authority (IAA). This person and their family have all experienced serious mental health issues as a result of the process, which has been compounded by news of the government attempting to rush through this Bill.

Another person supported by the ASC reported experiencing severe distress as a result of the introduction of this Bill, saying “I heard this news. I’m not feeling well at all. I have so many panic attacks that the stress of panic attacks is bothering me. I want to go to the hospital. I have heart palpitations.”

People such as this are at risk of being forced to return to their home countries, facing unimaginable danger, or to third countries with no support network. In doing so, the Bill intentionally puts innocent, vulnerable people in harm’s way.

The criminalisation of non-cooperation

This Bill continues a concerning pattern of criminalising Australia’s migration system. Should people seeking asylum refuse to cooperate with attempts to remove them from Australia, they will face a mandatory minimum sentence of 12 months and up to five years’ imprisonment. This measure applies regardless of the threat of harm if they were to return to their country of origin, and regardless of the impact on family members.

The extent of criminalisation within this Bill is significantly concerning, particularly the inclusion that failure to comply with an order to sign a document, without any intention of wrongdoing, could result in a mandatory prison sentence.

There is significant risk that a refusal to cooperate will be seen as an admission of guilt or wrongdoing. People seeking asylum may be unable or unwilling to participate for a variety of legitimate reasons, including fear of persecution and harm, separation from family, language barriers, and poor mental and physical health.

These measures breach Australia’s obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention and international law. They inarguably risk the lives of people forced to return to countries where they face serious harm, including death, putting vulnerable people who lack support in a position of choosing between persecution and prison.

This aspect of the Bill also raises the potential for the return of indefinite immigration detention, ruled unlawful by Australia’s High Court just months ago.

The ASC is also deeply concerned by the extraordinary powers within this Bill for the government to disregard someone’s existing refugee status when looking at removal options.

Discriminatory power to prohibit visa applications from entire countries

In granting the Immigration Minister discriminatory power to prohibit visa applications from entire countries, the Bill puts power in the hands of an individual or government to ignore and refute international law, which states everyone has the right to seek safety from persecution.

The lack of accountability, transparency, or checks and balances in the proposed structure and implementation of this power leaves it open to decisions being driven by political expediency and dangerous biases.

It also fails to take into account the varied and increasing reasons for people to seek asylum both now and in the future, putting innocent people at risk from persecution or the destruction of their homes and communities.

This power to ban entry from certain countries will have impacts beyond people seeking asylum. It will further target certain ethnic groups in Australia, polarise communities and the public debate, damage social cohesion, and could lead to a rise in hate speech and discrimination. Having worked for more than three decades to maintain and enhance community cohesion among diverse communities, the ASC stands in strong opposition to any measures which further damage it.

Response to the context of the Migration Amendment (Removal and Other Measures) Bill 2024

In addition to the contents of the Bill, the ASC also holds serious concerns about the nature in which it was introduced.

It has been our observation that the government has adopted a chaotic pattern of harmful knee-jerk legislation on immigration, following the punitive restrictions imposed on those released from immigration detention and the preventative detention laws introduced after the High Court ruling.

In the lead up to the last federal election, the Labor Party spoke of a ‘humane’ and ‘compassionate’ approach to refugees and people seeking asylum, with its 2021 platform calling for the abolition of the flawed ‘Fast Track’ system which has kept people in our community trapped in limbo for a decade.

Immigration Minister Andrew Giles has since said that “the importance of lived experience in shaping national and international dialogue and policy cannot be overemphasised”. These policy platforms and promises have been abandoned through the government’s pattern of rushed legislation and introduction of this Bill.

The ASC is calling on the government to live by its own words and promises in discarding the Bill and pursuing a fairer, more humane approach to refugees and people seeking asylum, as voted for by the Australian electorate.

The safety and lives of people seeking asylum in Australia and abroad, the fabric of our multicultural society, our adherence to international law, and Labor’s own social justice values depend on it.

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