Land of the Fair-Go has Disappeared

09 August 2004

The High Court's decision to uphold the indefinite detention of stateless people is proof that a new system of complementary protection is urgently needed in Australia.

UnitingJustice National Director, Rev. Elenie Poulos, said Ahmed Ali Al-Kateb and Abbas Mahammad Hasan Al Khafaji, who have both been refused asylum, now face the prospect of life-long detention in Baxter.

"This is a shocking outcome that exposes the current policies and the associated legislation as not only unreasonable but abusive. It creates the possibility that refused asylum seekers who have no home to return to may die behind electrified fences in Australia," Rev. Poulos said.

Rev. Poulos said that this problem stems from the fact Australia does not have an administrative process to assess applications from those who are not refugees, but engage Australia's protection obligations under other international treaties such as the conventions relating to Statelessness.

"Statelessness is an international problem. Australia could be part of the solution. The type of complementary protection system suggested by the Church and others would allow visas to be granted on humanitarian grounds to people who are stateless.

"Minister Vanstone has seen the complementary protection proposal developed by Amnesty, the Refugee Council and the National Council of Churches. We hope that this current situation will encourage her to give it further consideration. We also hope this decision will encourage Labor to do the same because up until now, they have rejected our request, and the request by UNHCR, to consider complementary protection.

"Being stateless is not an individual's fault. It is not a crime and no-one deserves to be locked up for the term of their life just because a country refuses to accept a person as their citizen," Rev. Poulos said.

"This legislation must change. The land of the fair-go has disappeared. There is no land of the fair-go as long as this legislation remains in place."