Asylum Seekers

We can create a better way for people to seek asylum in Australia.

People seeking asylum have been an asset to Australia for generations and they can help make our country stronger than it has ever been. Closing the offshore detention camps will let us save money, while creating a safe way for people to seek asylum in Australia and helping 50,000 people per year.

The Australia Greens have developed a plan for a better way for people to seek asylum.

We offer a unique proactive alternative for the fair and efficient assessment and resettlement of people seeking asylum which ensures they are treated with respect and dignity and integrated into our community. Importantly, the Australian Greens policy will ensure that people’s safety is paramount. By increasing our humanitarian intake and adequately funding organisations in the region, the Australian Greens will create a fair system whereby people’s claims are processed efficiently and they are flown to Australia from Malaysia and Indonesia. People will no longer face the impossible choice of getting on a leaky boat.

Download the download the Better Way Booklet here.

The Greens will:

International perspective:

The UNHCR is the United Nations Refugee agency. It provides some basic figures on forcibly displaces people worldwide. This shows that at the end of 2014, almost 60 million people have been forcibly displaced worldwide, of whom almost 20 million people have been recognised as refugees. In addition approximately 1.8 million people were waiting on a decision on their asylum claims. Over 3.5 million people were recognised as refugees in the Asia Pacific region alone. See its reports on the Asia Pacific region.

Human Rights perspective:

The Australian Human Rights Commission works to promote and protect the human rights of asylum seekers, refugees, and people in immigration detention. It has published a number of reports and comments relating to issues concerning asylum seekers and refugees. See below for direct links to some.

The Forgotten Children: National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention 2014

This report by the Australian Human Rights Commission provides compelling first-hand evidence of the negative impact that prolonged immigration detention is having on the mental and physical health of children. The evidence given by the children and their families is fully supported by psychiatrists, paediatricians and academic research. The evidence shows that immigration detention is a dangerous place for children. The evidence demonstrates unequivocally that prolonged detention of children leads to serious negative impacts on their mental and emotional health and development. It is also clear that the laws, policies and practices of Labor and Coalition Governments are in serious breach of the rights guaranteed by the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Asylum seekers, refugees and human rights – Snapshot Report 2013

This report by the Australian Human Rights Commission provides an overview – or ‘snapshot’ – of the key human rights issues that arise from Australia’s approach to asylum seekers and refugees who arrive by boat. The report focuses on mandatory immigration detention and third country processing. The report reveals a significant gap between Australia’s human rights obligations under international law and the current treatment of asylum seekers and refugees. It notes that Australia maintains one of the most restrictive immigration detention systems in the world. It is mandatory, not time limited, and people are not able to challenge the need for their detention in a court of law.  It concludes with observations on some of the policy changes proposed by then newly elected Australian Government (i.e. 2013 coalition government).

Asylum seekers and refugees guide 

The Australian Human Rights Commission has published a guide which aims to provide clear, factual information to highlight the human rights issues involved in the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers. It addresses the following questions:


The Law Council of Australia has published an Asylum Seeker Policy. This explains:

  • the legal right to seek asylum,
  • the principle of non-refoulement,
  • international obligations, and
  • rule of law principles.

It concludes that as a signatory to many significant international conventions which were established to provide fundamental protections for individual human rights, Australia is bound to deal with those who seek asylum from persecution in accordance with a number of specific standards. These standards support the Law Council’s fundamental policy position that those persons legitimately seeking recognition as refugees, or complementary protection, must be treated with fairness, humanity and respect.

Other publications:

Below are some links to independent publications which cover various issues relating to asylum seekers in the Australian context. The Greens do not necessarily endorse the content of these publications but we provide them as interesting background.

Death in offshore detention: predictable and preventable 26 April 2016

This article, published in The Conversation, reflects on the death of asylum seeker, Hamid Khazaei. It notes that the course of events leading up to Khazaei’s death, while harrowing, came as no surprise. Health professionals have long warned that conditions in offshore detention centres are inhumane, degrading and pose life-threatening risks to asylum seekers and refugees. Offshore detention centres cannot provide quality health care. Their remote location prevents rapid and accessible specialist level care. Many health professionals have expressed concern about the standard of local health care provided and the absence of transparent, independent oversight. The article contains many links to supporting material, including government reports.

Here’s another reason kids don’t belong in detention: trauma changes growing brains   30 November 2015

This article, published in The Conversation, discusses some factors experienced by children in detention that may affect the growing brain and result in long-term consequences.  Children in detention are at very high risk of exposure to physical and sexual assault, family separation, environmental deprivation and forced relocation. They also commonly witness traumatic events affecting loved ones. These experiences roughly double their risk of developing mental health problems later in life. Children entering detention in Australia already have elevated rates of psychological problems. The trauma of detention is likely to compound these harmful effects, which may persist long after the resolution of the immigration process.

Detention gag orders make it impossible for doctors to do their job 9 June 2015

The Conversation reports on the introduction and possible impact of the Australian Border Force Act 2015.  Doctors and health professionals have always faced ethical dilemmas when choosing to work in the immigration detention system. From July, doctors will no longer be able to fulfil their ethical and professional obligations to report mistreatment of detainees. Under new legislation, passed last month with the support of both major parties, health professionals may be sentenced to two years in jail for the unauthorised disclosure of information about conditions in detention centres.

UN human rights review: Countries line up to criticise Australia for its treatment of asylum seekers  10 November 2015

The Sydney Morning Herald reports on the criticism received by Australia at a United Nations human rights forum over its treatment of asylum seekers on the high seas and in offshore detention centres.

Fact check: Does Australia spend more on offshore processing than the UN spends on refugee programs in South East Asia? 14 July 2015

The ABC has published a Fact Check on a claim that Australia is currently spending “more than five times the United Nations refugee agency’s entire budget for all of South East Asia” on offshore processing of asylum seekers.

  • The claim: Daniel Webb, director of the Human Rights Law Centre, says Australia is currently spending “more than five times the United Nations refugee agency’s entire budget for all of South East Asia” on offshore processing of asylum seekers.
  • The verdict: Although difficult to pinpoint a final figure, current spending for the 2014-15 financial year based on Senate estimates is comfortably over $1 billion, while the UN’s budget for the South East Asia region is $US157 million in 2015. Mr Webb’s claim checks out.

Taxpayers spending $1.3m a day to keep asylum seekers in island hellhole 23 July 2015

Crikey reports that it would be vastly cheaper to treat asylum seekers like actual human beings and provide proper housing and education services rather than keep them in detention on Nauru. According to a Senate committee hearing into the conditions in the asylum seeker detention centre in Nauru is that it costs almost $2000 per day per asylum seeker. It would be vastly cheaper to give each asylum seeker free housing, enrol each one in public school, or even house each one in prison.

A similar comment by the Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law at the UNSW, based on the Commission of Audit’s report, found that in 2013 offshore processing cost Australian taxpayers 10 times more than letting asylum seekers live in the community while their refugee claims are processed. It costs $400,000 a year to hold an asylum seeker in offshore detention, $239,000 to hold them in detention in Australia, and less than $100,000 for an asylum seeker to live in community detention. In contrast, it is around $40,000 for an asylum seeker to live in the community on a bridging visa while their claim is processed. (2014)

Nauru detention: serious health risks to children revealed in confidential report 30 May 2014

The Guardian published an exclusive report reflecting on the desperate state of health care in the Nauru detention centre. Observations include that:

  • barely any screening for communicable diseases in children; none for under-11s
  • children at ‘significant risk’ of sexual abuse
  • most pregnant detainees are depressed.


The report contains many more details about the state of healthcare provisions inside the detention centre. A link to the full report is provided in the Guardian article.

Why care about the health and well-being of asylum seekers?  3 June 2014

The Conversation in an article referring to the above report, discusses the Australian Government’s policy and questions whether there are alternatives.


Posted May 2016