By Isha Sahni
Migrants or Asylum seekers are generally people who move from one country to another to seek refuge of better living conditions. 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.
Australia has signed various treaties including 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) making it mandatory for the country to ensure human rights to the migrants or asylum seekers. These rights firmly include the right not to be arbitrarily detained.
Australia has in the past also 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 might be threatened as a party to the Refugee Convention. Australia under the ICCPR, the CAT and the CRC has obligations not to return people who face a real risk of violation of certain human rights, and not to send people to third countries where they would face a real risk of violation of their human rights under these instruments.
But even after all the past obligations, Australia at present has been resistant to the asylum seekers and migrants on its land. The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, on the 7th stated that no asylum seeker had reached Australia by boat in 50 days, the longest period since 2008, describing the measures to turn them back as tough but effective. The new government in Australia is also refusing to permanent settlement to genuine refugees who arrive by boat and are not going to allow their relatives to come to the country under family reunion schemes open to other refugees.
Talking about the citizens of Australia, a high-powered survey on social cohension is soon going to be Organised by the Community Relations Commission of NSW. The basic question of the survey being: What do Australians really think of migrants and asylum-seekers?
The forum has been prompted by the findings of the Sixth Scanlon Foundation Mapping Social Cohesion national survey, conducted in July 2013. The survey found that the issue of asylum-seekers ranks as the third-most important matter preoccupying the minds of most Australians. Asked what were the most important problems facing Australia today, respondents ranked only the economy and the quality of government and politicians ahead of the asylum-seeker issue.
The survey revealed that in 2013 fewer than 20 per cent of people thought that asylum seekers arriving by boat should be eligible for permanent settlement.
The survey this year is important as the new government has already changed a few policies for the asylum seekers or the refugees in Australia. This survey will give the world a clear picture on the stand of the citizens of Australia on this matter.
The forum will be held at the Metcalfe Auditorium, State Library of NSW, Macquarie Street, Sydney, on Thursday February 13 from 2:00pm to 4:00pm