Who are asylum seekers and refugees?

An asylum seeker is a person who has fled their own country and applied for protection as a refugee.

The United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, as amended by its 1967 Protocol (the Refugee Convention), defines who is a refugee and sets out the basic rights that countries should guarantee to refugees. According to the Convention, a refugee is a person who is outside their own country and is unable or unwilling to return due to a well-founded fear of being persecuted because of their:

race religion nationality membership of a particular social group or political opinion.

Asylum seekers or refugees and migrants have very different experiences and reasons for moving to another country. Migrants choose to leave their home country, and can choose where to go and when they might return to their home country. Asylum seekers and refugees, on the other hand, flee their country for their own safety and cannot return unless the situation that forced them to leave improves.

What are Australia’s human rights obligations in relation to asylum seekers and refugees?

Australia has international obligations to protect the human rights of all asylum seekers and refugees who arrive in Australia, regardless of how or where they arrive and whether they arrive with or without a visa.

While asylum seekers and refugees are in Australian territory (or otherwise engage Australia’s jurisdiction), the Australian Government has obligations under various international treaties to ensure that their human rights are respected and protected. These treaties include the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). These rights include the right not to be arbitrarily detained.

As a party to the Refugee Convention, Australia has agreed to ensure that asylum seekers who meet the definition of a refugee are not sent back to a country where their life or freedom would be threatened. This is known as the principle of non-refoulement.

Australia also has obligations not to return people who face a real risk of violation of certain human rights under the ICCPR, the CAT and the CRC, and not to send people to third countries where they would face a real risk of violation of their human rights under these instruments. These obligations also apply to people who have not been found to be refugees.

For an overview of the key human rights issues that arise from Australia’s approach to asylum seekers and refugees, see the Commission’s recent publication Asylum seekers, refugees and human rights: snapshot report 2013.

Reference: https://www.humanrights.gov.au/asylum-seekers-and-refugees-guide

2015-06-02 Asylum Seekers

Mystery plaque behind 'Youngster' sculpture highlights plight of refugee children


Every day, tens of thousands of commuters walk past the diminutive figure in a hoodie on the corner of George and Barrack streets in the CBD. Most would probably give the bronze sculpture barely a second thought. But one person at least has thought about it very deeply. In fact, deeply enough to have a professional-looking plaque installed on the wall behind, casting the work in a wholly different light.


“Lest we forget them,” begins the text. “Children seeking asylum in Australia are kept in detention as part of a government policy which inflicts harm on refugees fleeing violence and persecution,” it continues. “Their suffering is our shame. Here at this site we remember them and together call out for change.”

Pictures of the mysterious plaque, which appeared a few weeks ago, have since been doing the rounds on social media.

Artist Caroline Rothwell, who created the work entitled Youngster, has yet to see the unauthorised addition but has declared herself “delighted”. “I feel quite honoured that whoever has put it there has chosen to interact with it in that way,” she said.

“I agree with the sentiment. Also part of my idea with the work is that these little hooded figures we generally see as a threatening form are actually vulnerable.

“I think it’s great that an artwork can be used in the conversation in that way. I don’t feel that it is appropriated, I feel that it is extending the conversation.

“When the art is out in the public space, you always hope it will take on a life of its own.”

Youngster, which has a “partner” figure of a handstanding child a few metres away, was installed in 2012 as part of the City of Sydney’s Art and About festival.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/art-and-design/mystery-plaque-behind-youngster-sculpture-highlights-plight-of-refugee-children-20150531-ghcish.html#ixzz3bskitNKu

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2015-05-02 Asylum Seekers

Nauru's ban on Facebook angers opposition and refugee advocates

The Nauru government banned Facebook since 30 April 2015 as part of its crackdown on internet pornography. (Loic Venance: AFP)

Nauru's opposition and refugee advocates have slammed a government ban on Facebook, calling the move an act of "dictatorship".

The comments came after the government directed Digicel, the nation's internet service provider, "to start blocking applicable websites", which the opposition said includes the social networking site.

In a statement, the government cited moral and religious grounds for the ban, as part of a broader crackdown on “internet sites that show pornography, particularly those featuring children”.

But opposition MP Matthew Batsiua told Pacific Beat he considers the move a way to stop Nauruans from using Facebook to criticise the government.

“The real agenda here is curbing the rights of people to access social media,” he said.

He said people in Nauru usually use Facebook to express dissent and keep in touch with family overseas.

Mr Batsiua dismissed the government’s suggestion that the ban was implemented on moral grounds.

“The first reason they gave [for the closure] was due to a technical problem. Now it’s all about porn,” he said.

“This is all about [justice minister] Adeang and his cronies being worried about the ever increasing number of people who have taken to social media to criticise his dictatorial style, which even the president is either unwilling – or too scared – to rein in.”

Radio Australia has attempted to contact the Nauru government for comment, but they have not responded.

Claims of a dictatorship

“There has been a growing concern … on Facebook about criticism against this government for a lack of scrutiny,” Mr Batsiua said, a trend which has concerned the government.

“A lot of people on Facebook are calling our government a dictatorship.

“I mean the behaviour that we have seen in shutting out members of the opposition, having an ineffective parliament where basically there’s no scrutiny or debate on policies and activities, now curbing social media … I’m just spelling out what it is.”

Ian Rintoul from the Refugee Action Coalition agreed, saying the government is “not far short of being a dictatorship”.

We’re more likely to see increasing dissent inside Nauru partly as a result of the way in which the collaboration with the Australian Government has enriched quite a few people on Nauru but it certainly hasn’t enriched the general community. Ian Rintoul, Refugee Action Coaltion He dismissed claims by the government that they are simply trying to crack down on internet pornography.

Shutting down Facebook will severely impact refugees in the detention centre who use the social media network to communicate with the outside world, Mr Rintoul said.

“We’ve seen even in the treatment of refugees … the total power rests with commissioner and there’s no obvious way of appealing against the commissioner’s decisions about whether protests are allowed or disallowed,” he said.

Mr Rintoul said the government has been issuing decrees on where people can protest and “the ability to arrest … assemblies three or greater now extends to public areas and that effectively means inside the refugee compounds itself”.

Locals versus refugees

Mr Rintoul said there is a growing disquiet among people in Nauru as they feel they are “treated the same way as refugees”.

“So rather than unity … we’re more likely to see increasing dissent inside Nauru partly as a result of the way in which the collaboration with the Australian Government has enriched quite a few people on Nauru but it certainly hasn’t enriched the general community,” he said.

The opposition said Mr Adeang had revoked the visa of Digicel’s Nauru manager Lorna Roge while she was off the island on business.

“She joins the growing list of expat personnel who have been shunted off Nauru for no given reason other than Adeang doesn’t like them,” Mr Batsiua said.

“It’s a disgrace and the sooner this government calls an election so we can return Nauru to democracy, the better.

“Meanwhile it would be interesting to know how other countries in our region view this latest sorry act of censorship by this Nauru government.”

See: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-05-02/nauru-ban-on-facebook-to-diffuse-dissent-critics-say/6439146

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