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REFUGEE RIGHTS

Refugees in Politics Reassessing Australia’s Understanding of Refugees By Noah Hildreth

Australia has lost its grip on the realities that underscore the asylum seeker debate: we as a nation have begun to see refugees not as people but as a problem. Codified in international law is the universal human right to seek asylum in another country. However, these rights, and consequently many others, are denied by domestic law and policy.

Clearly, a radical change is needed in the way Australia approaches refugees, and this change must have its genesis in the attitudes and policies of the country’s two main political parties. Both the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) have reported that successive Australian governments have failed in their duty to protect refugees. Unbelievably, it was found that governments have in fact acted in ways that led directly to their mistreatment. A report published by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in 2013, found Australia guilty of 143 violations of international law for detaining forty-six refugees for four years. A snapshot report published by the AHRC, details the potential for human rights abuses under the current system of mandatory detention. According to the report, Australia’s detention system breaches the right not to be arbitrarily detained – it does not assess unlawful non-citizens on an individual basis, nor does it place any time limit on how long a person can be detained. Successive governments have exacerbated the problem by tainting public perceptions of refugees as a means to absolve Australia of its international obligations. Border protection is important for Australia’s safety, but the demonisation of asylum seekers has created the myth that refugees are threats against which Australia needs to be defended, rather than helpless victims.

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A human right by definition transcends all other boundaries: it is afforded to everyone irrespective of any cultural, social and political divides. However, in Australia, human rights have become mired in politics. The basic tenets of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) are largely held to be true. There can be no better foundation for a society than the UDHR, which outlines the fundamental rights afforded to all human beings, for example: the right to life and liberty, the right to be free from torture and other degrading treatment, the right to an education, and the right to seek asylum. A society founded on these principles 16

Profile for AM-UNITY Magazine

Edition 5  

Welcome to Edition 5 of AM-UNITY Magazine! In this issue we focus on Indigenous rights, refugee rights, and gender equity & diversity. Insid...

Edition 5  

Welcome to Edition 5 of AM-UNITY Magazine! In this issue we focus on Indigenous rights, refugee rights, and gender equity & diversity. Insid...

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