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Australian Immigration Law Update - No. 155 - EDITED BY: ADRIAN BITEL & MICHAEL JONES

In this issue


An island of despair: Amnesty International’s report on Nauru

Are we torturing people on Nauru? Yes, according to Amnesty International, in its recent report Island of Despair.

This report was based on interviews with refugees on the island, people who worked for companies that provided services in Nauru under Australian government contracts, and others concerned within the Australian community. Those who were interviewed also provided evidence such as photos, videos or audio recordings in support of their claims. The report also analysed the leaked ‘Nauru files’.

So what did the report say?


It is difficult for journalists to access Nauru and obtain information about the centre. The Border Force Act imposes a prison sentence of up to two years for any staff member of the processing centre to speak publicly about the conditions in the centre. The price of a media visa to Nauru increased from $200 AUD to $8000 AUD in January 2014. The veil of secrecy imposed by the Australian and Nauru government means the people we have sent to Nauru suffer in silence.

Deteriorating health 

Mental illness and self-harm are unacceptably common in the Nauru processing centre. Many of those who were interviewed often reported health issues such as high levels of anxiety, trouble sleeping and mood swings.

The report reveals many tragic accounts of self-harm. There were accounts of men pouring petrol on themselves and drinking washing-up liquids. There were reports of a pregnant woman trying to hang herself, and girls attempting to suicide two or more times a week. These tragedies are a result of the hopelessness induced in those on Nauru.

As well, there are inadequate medical facilities and services on Nauru. People often have to wait for months to take proper medical tests, even for life-threatening conditions such as cancer. Immigration officials, rather than doctors, decide whether a person can be transferred for medical reasons to Australia. The implementation of immigration policies appears to be more important than saving human lives.

Surrounded by danger

The people we have sent to Nauru face threats to their physical safety from those on Nauru who do not welcome them. Amnesty reports that refugees have been assaulted, their motorbikes have been stolen, their homes have been broken into, and they have been physically attacked by machete. Those in the processing centre who were victims of crime were helpless. Nauruan police often fail to investigate the crimes properly and take adequate action.

Children were harassed and bullied at schools by local children and teachers. The greatest anguish for the parents was their inability to protect their own children. There were stories such as a security guard throwing a rock at children whom she believed were misbehaving. The rock hit a child’s face and chipped off his tooth. No action was taken against the guard, and as a result the child suffered from nightmares and panic attacks. The child now barely speaks.

Lack of dignity

Individuals were treated in humiliating, traumatising, and dehumanising ways. Staff working for contractors call people by their boat or refugee identification number rather than their name. Staff also force individuals out of the shower after two minutes, or make people wait for months before they can get basic goods such as shoes and underwear. These actions were designed to destroy the spirits of those in the processing centre.

Who is responsible? 

Amnesty makes clear that the Australian government is responsible. It was the Australian government which set up the processing centre in Nauru and which sent people there.  Australian authorities are continuously informed of the situation on the island. It is clear that the soul-destroying conditions on Nauru were intended by the Australian government, as the current conditions on Nauru were foreseeable.

Amnesty concludes that Australia’s offshore processing regime amounts to torture under international law, because of the severe mental anguish caused by the system, its intentional nature, and its goal of intimidating or coercing people to achieve a specific outcome.

What else can we do?

Finding an alternative method of processing the claims of those seeking asylum is a question of political will. It is possible to reduce deaths at sea while eliminating abuse. These two concepts should not be mutually exclusive. Amnesty International has suggested considering the following policy actions. 

  • Boosting our aid program to help neighbouring countries better protect and support refugees. Australia could also use existing regional mechanisms like the Bali Process to reach agreement on improved rights protections for people seeking protection throughout the region.

  • Increasing access for refugees to Australia’s mainstream migration program by including them when the government allocates student, work and family reunion visas.

  • Expanding private sponsorship and family reunion visa options for refugees.

  • Actively participating in responsibility-sharing arrangements which make sure asylum claims are processed in a timely manner, and the most vulnerable people are resettled within the region and globally.

Read More>>

Immigration Minister replies to criticisms

Peter Dutton criticises advocates after refugees set themselves on fire on Nauru

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has hit out at "advocates and others" who he believes are pressuring refugees to "behave in a certain way", saying the Federal Government will not be persuaded to change its border protection policies.

Twenty-one-year-old Somali refugee Hodan Yasin has been transferred to Australia in a critical condition after setting herself on fire.

It follows the death of Iranian asylum seeker Omid Masoumali, who also self-immolated on the island.

Speaking in Canberra, Mr Dutton accused advocates of providing false hope to those have been held in offshore detention.

"I have previously expressed my frustration and anger at advocates and others who are in contact with those in regional processing centres and who are encouraging some of these people to behave in a certain way, believing that pressure exerted on the Australian Government will see a change in our policy in relation to our border protection measures," Mr Dutton said. 

"They can oppose Government policy and espouse a cause for open borders, but that is not the policy of this Government, and no action advocates or those in regional processing countries will cause the Government to deviate from its course."

The Federal Government said the federal budget will see the closure of more immigration detention centres.

Mr Dutton told Parliament he would close 17 detention centres that were opened by the former Labor government.

"We have worked tirelessly since the day we were first elected to make sure that we could keep the people smugglers out of business, to make sure we could close the detention centres," he said.

A spokeswoman for the Minister declined to say which centres would be on the list.

Pamela Curr from the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre said advocates such as herself were trying to keep the detainees calm and give them something to hold on to.

"I know that there are advocates out there, like me, who are texting, messaging, WhatsApping all the time," she said.

This is not a complaint about living conditions: Dutton

Mr Dutton also denied the recent protests are in response to living conditions on Nauru and Manus Island.

"There is not a complaint about the living conditions, the medical services, the education, the 300 people or so who are employed on Nauru, the 30-odd who have started up small businesses," he said.

"These complaints are largely because people want to come to Australia.

Read More>>

Government wants life ban on asylum seekers entering Australia

The Turnbull government’s move to ban all asylum seekers who come by boat from ever setting foot in Australia has triggered dismay from refugee advocates and satisfaction from one nation as the opposition comes under immediate pressure to support the legislation.

In an escalation of an already hard-line immigration policy, asylum seekers detained on Manus Island or Nauru from July 19, 2013 onwards would be ineligible for any sort of Australian visa – including for tourism, business, or family reasons – for the rest of their lives.

It includes those deemed to be genuine refugees and any who chose to return to their home country. Children, whether they arrived unaccompanied or with parents, will be exempt.

The announcement paves the way for a potential deal to resettle refugees in New Zealand or the US while allowing the government to guarantee that no such person will ever settle in Australia.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said the government was “in discussion with a number of countries” about a deal and stressed no destinations had been ruled out.

He has previously warned a NZ option would constitute a back door for asylum seekers to eventually settle in Australia. The visa ban would make that impossible. Mr Dutton said the proposed laws were partly designed to prevent the practice of advocates marrying refugees to bring them to Australia under partner visas.

“That is not acceptable,” he said. “We are not going to allow arrangements that would subvert the program and the success we’ve had.”

Asked why it was necessary to stop refugees visiting as tourist, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said it was “a battle of will” to stop the people-smuggling trade. “It is incredibly important that we send the clearest message,” he said.

The government has long maintained that asylum seekers who come by boat would never be settled in Australia but this ban is tougher than expected.

Liberal MP Craig Laundy, formerly the assistant minister for multicultural affairs and a strong supporter of immigration, said the changes would merely “formalise” existing protocols, making it difficult for asylum seekers to obtain visas.

Under the status quo, former asylum seekers considered to be at risk of breaching their visa conditions and staying in Australia were already likely to be rejected, he said.

Refugee advocate Pamela Curr described the proposal as “appalling” and unnecessary.

“They don’t want to come here. They know what we’re like now,” she said. “We’ve gone from a country which offered protection to a country that offers persecution.”

Ms Curr also said it was true “a handful of people” had been brought to Australia from detention under partner visas but that it was a “perfectly legitimate” thing to do.

Senator Pauline Hanson welcomed that “the government is now taking its cues from One nation”.

The government immediately sought to put pressure on Labor ahead of the amendment to the migration Act being introduced when Parliament returns in a week.

Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek said the party would consider the detail before deciding whether to back the measure.

Source: Sydney Morning Herald 31/10/2016

New study reveals importance of migrant farmers to Australian agriculture

Immigrant farmers and workers are contributing to the productivity of Australian agriculture. A new Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation funded study finds these workers bring new skills and overcome labour shortage in rural and regional Australia.

The report is the culmination of three-years research. It fills a critical knowledge gap about the contribution migrant farmers – both permanent skilled settlers and short-term labourers.

Professor jack Collins, leader researcher, says “the research illustrates the many different levels at which immigrants play an important role”.

“In terms of skilled labour immigrant farmers bring not only experience but innovation and entrepreneurship in techniques and commodities. South African and Zimbabwean farmers for example, have brought water saving technologies, while Asian growers have introduced new products for the food market.”

While in the minority, unsatisfactory work experiences of some working holiday-makers and Pacific Seasonal Workers are captured in the report.

Source: MIA Newsletter 14 October 2016

Migration program meets nation’s needs, says Minister Dutton

Australia’s permanent migration program in 2015-2016 has delivered outcomes to meet the nation’s skills and economic needs to facilitate family reunions according to Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton.

The majority of the 190,000 places available for permanent migration came from the Skilled Stream (128,550) of 68 per cent of the programme.

Most of the skilled visas went to Employer Sponsored State and Territory Government Sponsored and the Regional Skilled category to help fill critical skills needs.

The family migration programme granted 60,912 visas in 2015-16 and 17,000 people were offered refuge as part of the refugee and Special Humanitarian program.

Source: MIA Newsletter 30 September 2016

Backpacker tax goes down to 19 per cent

Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison has announced the government’s decision to reduce the amount of tax charged to working holiday makers under the proposed “backpacker tax” from 32.5 per cent to 19 per cent.

The proposed tax, first announced as part of then Treasurer Joe Hockey’s 2015-16 Budget, has been a contentious issue for the government particularly with the farming and tourism sectors.

The treasurer also announced that the government will reduce the application fee charged for working holiday visas by $50 to $390

In an attempt to attract more working holiday makers to Australia, which has been on the decline since mid-2012, the Government is introducing more flexible arrangements to benefits working makers and industry, allowing an employer with premises in different regions to employ a working holiday maker for 12 months, with the worker able to work for six months in both regions.

A $10 million global youth targeted advertising campaign will also be undertaken by Tourism Australia to help increase the number of working holiday makers to Australia.

The National Farmers’ Federation, who have been one of the strongest opponents to the tax, welcomed the decision and said that they had always been an advocate for the 19 per cent tax rate.

“We are delighted to see Government listening to its constituency and not put in place a tax that would have hurt farm production and ultimately, the Australian economy. We have consistently said agriculture simply cannot do without backpackers and following this announcement, we can again go to the working holiday maker community and say that coming to work on our farms is worth it,” said NFF National president Brent Finlay.

Source: MIA Newsletter 30 September 2016

PM announces another 5,000 places to be added to Australia’s Humanitarian program

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced that Australia’s humanitarian visa program will add another 5,000 places starting 2018-19. This will take the total number of visas granted in the humanitarian program to 18,750 per year.

Speaking at the leaders’ Summit on Refugees in New York, hosted by president Obama, Prime Minister Turnbull also announced that Australia will participate in a US led multilateral program to resettle refugees from Central America, from refugee camps in Costa Rica.

A Community Support Program will also be established for 1,000 refugees where communities and business can sponsor applicants and support new arrivals in the community.

Australia will also provide $130 million during the next three years to further increase support for the refugees and communities in key countries including Jordan, Lebanon and Pakistan.

World Vision, Amnesty International Australia and Oxfam Australia all welcomed the announcement but wanted the numbers of the program to rise more substantially.

Source: MIA Newsletter 23 September 2016

Treasury official admit no modelling was done to assess backpacker tax impact

The Federal Government never specifically investigated whether its backpacker tax proposal would hurt farmers and the tourism industry, or hasten the decline of working holiday makers entering Australia, a Senate inquiry has revealed.

Treasury officials admitted their department did not have complete information about the ramifications o f a 32.5 per cent tax on backpacker’ earnings, which was first proposed in the Coalition’s 2015 budget.

They told a Senate Economics Committee hearing that Treasury’s modelling did not specifically forecast the impact of a higher tax on the national farm workforce, 25 per cent of whom are backpackers.

Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie put it to Treasury’s acting head of tax analysis, Robert Ewing that his department and Australian Tax Office were “flying blind” on “the detailed costs and the negative impact” of the backpacker tax proposal.

“I wouldn’t say that we are blind, I would say that we have less information than would be ideal,” he responded.

The Coalition announced its intention to enforce a 32.5 per cent tax on all backpackers’ earning in its 2015 budget without any prior consultation with the agriculture industry or tourism operators.

That led to a protracted fight which remains unresolved.

The Senate’s Economics Committee is currently reviewing the Coalition’s compromise proposal, unveiled last month, for a 19 per cent backpacker tax.

Treasurer Scott Morrison said the proposal would remain revenue neutral thanks to a new 95 per cent tax on backpackers’ superannuation, and a $5 increase to the Passenger Movement Change – the departure tax paid by all international travellers.

Read More>>

More than half of the 12,000 Syrian and Iraqi humanitarian visas have now been granted

Australia has now issued visas to more than half the additional 12,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees that it committed to resettle a year ago. As of 2 September, 6,678 visas have been issued and 3,532 of these people have settled in Australia.

Another 6,293 people have been interviewed and assessed as meeting threshold requirements for a visa. These people are waiting the outcome of health, character and security checks. The minister for immigration and Border protection Peter Dutton said it was vital those checks were carried out before the granting of a visa.


With the additional Syrian/Iraqi intake beginning in late 2015, the 2015-16 Humanitarian Programme was the largest offshore programme in more than 30 years with 15,552 visa issued. In total, 17,555 visas were granted under the programme to 30 June. The 2015-16 Special Humanitarian programme grants was also the largest in more than a decade at 7,268.


Source: MIA Newsletter 16 September 2016

Migrants earning more and helping to strengthen our economy

An ABS has announced that migrant tax payers have generated $53.4 billion in total personal income in 2011-2012, an increase in real times of 17 per cent on 2010-2011.

CEO of Migration Council Australia Carla Wilshire welcomed the report’s findings and said that the data demonstrate the value of skilled migration and the economic contribution that skilled migrants make to the Australian budget bottom line.

“The skilled migration program is one of Australia’s greatest stories and growth in migrant income over time indicates that migrants are successfully integrating into Australian community. This data reinforces what we already know. Skilled migrants are willing participants in the Australian economy and represent a growing group of taxpayers who will contribute to our society over the course of their life,” said Ms Wilshare.

Source: MIA Newsletter 28 October 2016

MANUS Island, Nauru refugees to be banned from entering Australia, Malcolm Turnbull Says

The Federal Government will soon move to ban refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru from ever coming to Australia, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says.

The new law would cover those who tried to reach Australia by boat from mid-July 2013, and would block them from obtaining any visa, including tourist and business visas.

Mr Turnbull said the legislation would send a clear message.

"This will send the strongest possible signal to the people smugglers ... It is incredibly important that we send the clearest message," Mr Turnbull told a press conference this morning.

"They must know that the door to Australia is closed to those who seek to come here by boat with a people smuggler. It is closed.

The legislation would also apply to people previously held on the Pacific islands but who have since left, including people transferred to Cambodia as part of a $55 million deal.

People who arrived on Manus Island or Nauru as children would be exempt.

Despite the new law, the Immigration Minister would still have discretion to let people into Australia.

Making the law retrospective means it can be used on the nearly 1,300 people who are currently on Manus Island and Nauru.

Seventy-two per cent of those who have been through the camps have been assessed as being genuine refugees, according to the latest Operation Sovereign Borders press release.

'Government takes cues from One Nation': Hanson

One Nation leader Pauline Hanson welcomed the policy, declaring on Twitter that it was "good to see that it looks like the Government is now taking its cues from One Nation. Just like last time".

But the Opposition accused the Government of making the announcement as a distraction.

"It's a distraction from Peter Dutton's hopeless mismanagement of his portfolio," Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek said.

"It is extraordinary that three years on, this Government has not found third countries to resettle those people who are in limbo on Manus Island or Nauru.

"It's time Peter Dutton started doing his job and finding a permanent resettlement option for these people."

Labor MP Andrew Giles asked on Twitter: "What sort of government looks to punish vulnerable people who've sought our help?"

"What is the point of this if the Government’s turn back policy is working? What is this cruel law really about?" Tasmanian Labor senator Lisa Singh tweeted.

Greens' immigration spokesman Nick McKim said Mr Turnbull's policy was a "desperate attempt to reabsorb the votes from Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party".

"Supporting this policy will mean innocent men women and children will be punished for doing nothing wrong," he said.

Read More>>

A.P.B. Education

Specialist IELTS Test Training and Coaching

Passing an IELTS test is now an essential requirement for all applicant for General Skilled Migration, student visas, and for many employer sponsored applicants. Adrian Bitel provides individual lessons to assist applicants achieve proficiency to the required levels in:

  • Reading          

  • Speaking

  • Writing

  • Listening

He gives comprehensive ONE to ONE Personalised Coaching in any or all of the above areas at very competitive rates.

Contact: Adrian Bitel on (02) 9286 8700 or Mobile: 0412 656 026                                              

  Parish Patience Immigration
Level 3, 83 York Street
Sydney NSW  2000
Tel:  +61 2 9286 8700
Fax: +61 2 9283 3323
Email: ppmail@ppilaw.com.au






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