21 March 2012

Amnesty International welcomes Australian immigration changes

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A decision to consolidate the way all asylum seekers are processed by Australian immigration authorities into a single process has been commended by rights groups, particularly Amnesty International.

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Amnesty International has welcomed the decision to process all asylum seekers in one way.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said yesterday that from 24, March, all asylum seekers will be processed by Australian immigration authorities in the same way, regardless of whether they arrived by boat or plane.

Previously, only those who arrived by plane could take their case before the Refugee Review Tribunal board while boat arrivals were subject to the Independent Merits Review. As of Saturday, all asylum seekers will be permitted to go before the Refugee Review Tribunal board in an effort to secure a protection Australian visa.

Amnesty International, the humanitarian organisation that condemned Australia's detention centres and immigration processes in a report published last month, welcomed the decision.

"This is a very significant decision for Australia," said Graham Thom, Amnesty International Australia's national refugee coordinator.

Dr Thom, who was one of the inspectors that visited the detention centres, was joined in his praise by other charities dedicated to asylum seekers in Australia.

"This announcement brings to an end a process that discriminated against asylum seekers depending on how and where they arrived in Australia," said Paul Power of the Australian refugee Council.

While charities may commend the announcement, many are quick to point out that is still only the first step in a long list of issues within the system which still need to be addressed.

"It is important for Australia to now revisit policies such as mandatory detention, ensuring all asylum-seekers are treated equally regardless of how they enter the country," said Amnesty's Dr Thom.

A spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition said: "Mandatory detention for undocumented asylum seekers is the central issue and is still on the books. This needs to be dismantled immediately."


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