Asylum seekers dealt a cruel blow by 11th hour legislation

Protesters at the Melbourne refugee rally on June 26.

Asylum-seekers and their supporters have been dealt a cruel blow this week thanks to the shameful, bipartisan support for offshore detention within the Australian parliament.

A High Court challenge to the legality of Australia’s offshore detention of asylum seekers has been undermined by an eleventh hour bill rushed through the House of Representatives and Senate, unamended and with ALP support, on June 24 and 25.

The Coalition government, supported by ALP Senators and Senators Nick Xenophon, John Madigan and Bob Day voted in favour of the bill in the Senate, with only the Greens and other crossbench senators voting against.

An amendment from the Greens that would have made reporting of sexual abuse of detained children mandatory was defeated by government and ALP senators.

The Human Rights Legal Centre’s legal challenge comes at a time when offshore processing is also facing a constitutional challenge in the Supreme Court of PNG, according to the Refugee Action Coalition (RAC).

Ahead of the vote, RAC spokesperson Ian Rintoul appealed to ALP parliamentarians not to support the bill on the basis that “Any support for the Coalition in the present circumstances would not only preempt Labor conference discussion, and possible rejection of offshore processing; it would be regarded as explicit support for the corrupt detention system and the corrupt Nauru government.”

“The shocking revelations of physical and sexual abuse on Nauru have exposed the horror of the offshore regime that the Coalition is scrambling to legitimise,” Rintoul said.

Green Left Weekly is committed to continuing to expose Australia’s cruel, bipartisan policy towards refugees and asylum seekers. Green Left Weekly journalists have continued to bring the stories of asylum seekers to our readers for more than two decades and we will continue to do so without fear or favour.

A former Manus Island detainee, Aladdin Sisalem described Green Left Weekly as "the bird which carried my message to the world", when it broke the story of his detention back in 2003.

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