The Australian government has been accused of attempting to break its international obligations after moving to bar any refugee or asylum-seeker who arrives in the country illegally by boat from ever being able to apply for a visa, even as tourists or for business.
A new lifetime ban proposed by the Australian government has attracted widespread criticism amid claims it breaches the country’s international treaty obligations.
Immigration minister Peter Dutton insisted on Monday that the ban, which will be put to parliament when it next sits, meets the obligations currently in place and the advice given to the Government was clear.
“We are absolutely confident in terms of the constitutionality and that we meet our international obligations,” Mr Dutton told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Article 31 of the United Nations’ 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees states that signatories “shall not impose penalties, on account of their illegal entry or presence, on refugees”.
It further states that the advice should apply to refugees who come directly from a life-threatening region.
Malcolm Turnbull, the prime minister, stated on Monday that the proposed legislation “is absolutely consistent with our international obligations.”
Some opposition MPs, however, have questioned whether the legislation would be consistent with international law.
“Peter Dutton and Malcolm Turnbull must explain the motivation for their proposed new law. They must explain why it is consistent with international law – not just make assertions to that effect,” wrote Labor MP Terri Butler following a statement by Mr Dutton on Monday.
Bill Shorten, opposition leader, said his party had yet to decide whether to back the visa ban. Mr Shorten, who said he had yet to see the details of the ban, branded some its aspects as “ridiculous”.
“It seems ridiculous to me that a genuine refugee who settles in the US or Canada and becomes a US or Canadian citizen is banned from visiting Australia as a tourist, businessman or businesswoman 40 years down track,” he said in a statement released on Monday.
“Whether he likes it or not, refugees like Frank Lowy, Gustav Nossal and Hieu Van Le have made a huge contribution to Australia. As an Australian, that’s something I’m very proud of.”
Read more: telegraph