Justice for refugees

Wednesday, June 24, 1992

Justice for refugees

Federal court judge Marcus Einfeld made some telling points in his June 17 speech to the National Press Club, launching National Refugee Week. He rightly castigated the federal government's treatment of Cambodian boat people seeking refugee status. He pointed out that the government's recent, hastily passed changes to immigration law violate the United Nations refugee convention and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both of which Australia has ratified. The legal changes were rushed through specifically to prevent Cambodian boat people presenting a challenge to the legality of their detention.

Einfeld also challenged the 1951 Geneva Convention's definition of refugees, with its political and economic categories. This has been the basis for denying refuge on economic grounds. Einfeld said the UN should recognise economic security as a basic human right.

While Einfeld went on to blot his democratic credentials with a dangerous and ridiculous call for an invasion of Burma to install a democratic government there, his call for more just treatment of refugees in this country and internationally will be welcome to all consistent supporters of human rights, and will strengthen the fight against the government's grossly unjust position.

The federal government's recent bureaucratic abuse and forcible deportation of Asian boat people is a disgusting spectacle, all the more so because it is being enforced out by ALP "left-winger" Gerry Hand in his role as immigration minister. While this sordid business continues, foreign minister Gareth Evans' plan to send a parliamentary human rights delegation to China can only be seen as a hypocritical farce.