Australia’s legal community urges PM to end offshore detention

25 February 2016
Australia’s legal community has called on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to end offshore immigration detention and bring all asylum seekers and refugees back to mainland Australia.

In an open letter  to Mr Turnbull, almost 50 law firms, representative bodies, legal associations and jurists strongly advocate for the end of offshore detention and call on the government to bring all asylum seekers in regional processing facilities to the mainland to have their claims properly processed.

The letter calls for the 267 asylum seekers at the centre of a recent unsuccessful High Court bid, who are now at risk of being sent to offshore processing centres, to remain in Australia.

“As a legal community, we have serious concerns about sending people to offshore processing centres. We are concerned that the current offshore detention regime undermines a core principle of the rule of law: that of access to justice. We remain concerned that those in offshore processing centres are being denied this fundamental right.”

The letter states that community legal organisations, legal bodies and associations have repeatedly raised concerns about access to justice for asylum seekers with the government over many years. The letter is endorsed by every specialist refugee legal centre in Australia.

“Despite our combined advocacy, it remains difficult for Australian lawyers to visit asylum seekers and refugees on Nauru or Manus Island to provide advice and representation… the Australian government is deliberately transferring these vulnerable individuals to a place where it is difficult to obtain adequate legal advice.”

The signatories also express concerns about allegations of sexual assault made by asylum seekers and refugees on Nauru not being properly investigated by the Nauruan authorities.

“We are gravely concerned about sending women and children to places where the Australian government cannot guarantee their protection under the law from physical violence,” it says.

“This lack of access to justice for individuals sent to offshore processing centres is contrary to our international law obligations… International standards require that asylum seekers be provided adequate legal assistance to make their claims.”