Thursday, September 01, 2011

A victory for human rights in Australia

Back in June, the Australian government was under pressure over refugees again, so they came up with a new, uglier response: sending all asylum-seekers to Malaysia. Malaysia, of course, is not a party to the Refugee Convention, and has a record of abusing and mistreating refugees [PDF]. Sadly, the Australian government seemed to view these facts as pluses rather than minuses.

Fortunately, the High Court took a different view, ruling yesterday that the deal was unlawful:

A 6-1 majority of the full bench ruled Mr Bowen's declaration that Malaysia was an appropriate country to which to send asylum seekers was invalid.

The court found that a country must be bound by international or domestic law to provide protection for asylum seekers to be an appropriate destination.

"The court also held that the minister has no other power under the Migration Act to remove from Australia asylum seekers whose claims for protection have not been determined," a summary of the court's judgment read.

And that's that. The government can't legislate to overturn the ruling because the Greens would squash it in the Senate. Instead, they're going to be forced to live up to their international obligations, whether they want to or not.