'Humane' Refugee Bill Introduced To Parliament To Stop Mandatory Detention
New bill to "dismantle Australia's current offshore immigration detention".
Independent federal MP Andrew Wilkie has introduced a bill into parliament calling for a radical overhaul of Australia's controversial refugee processing regime, outlining a new system aimed at stopping mandatory detention and busting people smuggler operations.
Wilkie, the member for Denison, brought his Refugee Protection Bill 2018 into the House of Representatives on Monday. The bill outlined an ambitious system of processing centres to be established through the region -- the Asia-Pacific Asylum Seeker Solution, or APASS -- where asylum seekers would register, be cared for, and lodge a preference for which country they wish to be resettled in.
The system would differ from Australia's criticised offshore detention and regional processing policy, by not allowing for mandatory indefinite detention and providing free legal advice, accommodation and financial support to asylum seekers.
"Each step of this process will have restricted time frames, appropriate oversight and review," the bill's explanatory memorandum read.
The bill also specifically outlined it would "dismantle Australia's current offshore immigration detention policies as they are abhorrent, cruel and in clear breach of refugee and international human rights law".
The idea for a regional processing network appears similar to a policy supported by Labor for some years. In 2011, the Gillard government pushed for an arrangement where Australian asylum seekers would be processed in Malaysia, in exchange for Australia taking some refugees from that country, but the plan was blocked in the Senate.
Introducing the bill on Monday, Wilkie told the House his bill would see all refugees in Australian-run centres on Manus Island and Nauru brought to the mainland.
"For too long the community has been misled into believing the choice is one between defending our borders from invaders or having open borders. But there was always another way, that of a genuine regional framework based on decency and the rule of law," he said.
"Let's not forget that 12 people have now died in Australia's offshore detention centres, all avoidable. But it's never too late to right a wrong."
Last week, a young Iranian man on Nauru died by suicide. His family had previously warned he was suffering from mental distress, and requested help from authorities.
The bill was seconded and supported by fellow independent MP Cath McGowan.
The text of Wilkie's bill admitted this process would be "complex" and "requires the subsequent passage of consequential amendments", as it does not outline how the APASS system would be set up. Rather, Wilkie said his bill was "enabling legislation only" and "should be read as a primary bill".
"It should be seen by the executive as a viable alternative to Australia's current asylum seeker policy", the memorandum read.
"The Liberal and Labor parties are in a race to the bottom when it comes to asylum seekers,"Wilkie said.
"What we need is an approach that’s humane and developed in conjunction with other countries in the Asia Pacific region."