Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Enjoining refoulement

Yesterday Australia refouled 41 refugees to Sri Lanka, where they are now facing prosecution and possibly torture for attempting to leave the country. Fortunately, last night Australian lawyers enjoined the government from refouling any more:

The High Court has issued an interim injunction preventing the transfer to Sri Lanka of 153 asylum seekers who are missing on a boat bound for Australia.

The injunction, granted late on Monday in Sydney, applies at least until a hearing resumes on Tuesday afternoon at 2.15pm.

The asylum seekers are represented by Ron Merkel, QC, who argued to Justice Susan Crennan that the transfer was illegal because the asylum seekers had been deprived the ability to have their claims properly assessed.

But it was not clear whether the transfer has already taken place because Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has refused to comment and his lawyers told the court they had not received instructions.

I'm glad to see the law reasserting itself. At the same time, I'm boggled that the Australian government would even consider refouling people to torture (and in the case of the people they just refouled, creating a risk of torture by refouling them). Decent governments don't do this. But I guess its been a long, long time since we've been able to regard Australia as "decent".