Australia must act to protect asylum seekers on Nauru

03 February 2014
Photo: Siobhan Marren, UnitingJustice

UnitingJustice Australia is deeply concerned for the safety of asylum seekers given the current crisis in the Nauruan legal system.

The latest amendments to the Immigration Act in Nauru grant the Minister for Justice and Border Control the power to deport individuals without notice or grounds for the decision, and deny those deported the right of appeal.

Acting National Director of UnitingJustice Ms Rosemary Hudson-Miller said that the recent changes carry dangerous implications for the 852 asylum seekers detained on Nauru.

"These changes place lives at risk," said Rosemary Hudson-Miller. "UnitingJustice has repeatedly expressed concerns about the conditions in offshore detention centres, and these recent changes could see asylum seekers deported without notice into dangerous situations in countries like Afghanistan and Sri Lanka."

"These are vulnerable men, women and children who we are bound to protect both morally and legally."

"The principle of non-refoulement is one of the most important under refugee law. Australia cannot knowingly send asylum seekers to a country where they will be harmed – and they now face a very real risk of harm on Nauru."

"Transferring asylum seekers offshore doesn't excuse Australia from its human rights obligations."

"We must ensure that adequate safeguards are in place for asylum seekers at all times, including the application of the rule of law in transfer countries."

"Uniting Justice has previously called for these centres to be closed and for those detained there to be brought to the Australian mainland. We echo those calls now. This step is now even more urgent now given the judicial crisis in Nauru," said Ms Hudson-Miller.

UnitingJustice Australia is the national social justice policy and advocacy unit of the Uniting Church in Australia.