'Don't deport to danger', airline told

Sydney protest outside Qantas HQ on August 9. Photo: Zebedee Parkes

Refugee rights activists rallied outside Qantas offices in Sydney and Jetstar offices in Melbourne on August 9 as part of a national campaign calling on the Qantas airline to refuse to deport asylum seekers to danger.

A number of airlines around the world are refusing to take part in deportations. However, Qantas and Virgin Australia have, so far, not joined the boycott.

In Melbourne, speakers highlighted the cases of two families: Huyen, who has a five-month old daughter who was born in detention, is facing deportation to Vietnam; and Priya, Nades and their two daughters, who have been in detention for five months, are facing deportation to Sri Lanka.

Victorian Greens MP Huong Truong sent a message to the rally citing an Amnesty International report on the persecution of Catholics in Vietnam. Huyen's husband Paul also spoke.

Umesh from the Tamil Refugee Council said the Australian government has ignored a report by the United Nations special rapporteur Ben Emmerson showing that torture is endemic in Sri Lanka, and mainly affects Tamils. Umesh said that more than 1300 Tamils face deportation from Australia to Sri Lanka.

The Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility has called on airlines to respect human rights “and that means taking measures to avoid causing or contributing to adverse human rights impacts”.

In a statement it released signed by a number of high-profile lawyers and trade union and refugee rights activists, it says that upholding human rights “applies regardless of the size or structure of the business, and over and above local laws”.

“[A]irlines should not participate in deportations where there is evidence that the fundamental human rights to an adequate legal process have been denied, as well as where there is a real risk of serious, irreparable harm to an individual,” it says.

It refers to international laws, including the Refugee Convention, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention against Torture and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as setting the standard.

It added that, given Australia's inadequate laws regarding these standards, airlines should exercise “a heightened due diligence process” before carrying out any deportations on behalf of the Australian government. To do otherwise, it says, would contribute to human rights abuses as well as damage to the company's reputation.