ALA rejects asylum-seeker policies

THE Australian Lawyers Alliance has called for an end to the politicisation of the asylum seeker issue.

In its submission to the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers, obtained by APN Newsdesk, the ALA rejected the asylum seeker policies of both major parties, including any form of offshore processing, agreements between nations, mandatory detention and the Coalition's policy of "turning back the boats".

"These options fail to address the interconnected and underlying nature of the issues, but also fail to adhere to Australia's obligations under international law," the ALA's submission, which makes 15 recommendations for asylum seeker policy, reads.

The ALA argues turning boats around "Flies directly in the face of international law".

"This proposal is aggressive, punitive and cannot work," the submission reads.

"Towing boats out of Australian waters will lead to more deaths of innocent people."

The ALA argues offshore processing is a policy that "must not be pursued", citing among other reasons prohibitive costs and the High Court's rejection last year of the Gillard government's Malaysian people swap deal.

It contends independent MP Rob Oakeshott's Bali bill, which passed the lower house before being defeated in the Senate during Parliament's last sitting week before the winter break, undermines the legal protections afforded asylum seekers under Australian law.

The ALA also urges Australia to take a leading role in developing a comprehensive regional strategy.

It calls for Australia to increase its humanitarian intake from Asian countries, increase funding to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and encourage neighbouring countries to embrace the Refugee Convention.

A review of Australia's people smuggling and fishing laws, addressing poverty in Indonesia and educating people in that country about the dangers of people smuggling and human trafficking also form part of the ALA submission.

The Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers, chaired by retired defence chief Angus Houston, will report back to the Parliament on Monday.

It has received submissions from 45 organisations and more than 200 individuals, including former Liberal prime minister Malcolm Fraser.

APN understands many of the submissions to the panel call for an end to offshore processing.

Asylum seeker policy is expected to again dominate the debate in Canberra when Parliament resumes next week.

That was almost assured when another boat was intercepted by Australian navy vessels on Wednesday night.

The 211 people on board represented the asylum seekers found on boat since Labor took power in 2007.

More than 100 boats carrying more than 7000 people have been intercepted by Australian border control in 2012.



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