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Letter to senate cross benchers following passing of Marine and Maritime Powers amendments bill


Dear Senator Xenophon,

I was dismayed to learn that you voted for the government's  Marine and Maritime Powers amendments in the Senate last week. I realise that you may have felt under immense pressure to support the bill, given that the Minister for Immigration had cynically linked its passage to the release of children from detention on Christmas Island. It saddens me greatly that you caved in to this bullying tactic.  

You know as well as I that there was nothing in the  amendments relating to the release of children in detention, and that the government could have chosen to release all children and their families from detention at any time since coming to office.

You have now passed into law a most shameful piece of legislation, which gives the Minister for Immigration unprecedented, unchallengeable and secret powers to determine the fate of individual asylum seekers. 

You have removed all references to the Refugee Convention from the legislation, notwithstanding the fact that Australia is a signatory. You have decided that Australia can now flout its international obligations with its "new, independent and self-contained statutory framework". 

You must be well aware that you have given powers to the government which will enable it to return asylum seekers to places where they have been, or will likely be, persecuted, tortured or worse.

You must also know that the reinstatement of TPVs is a backward step. As in the past, placing vulnerable, traumatised asylum seekers in limbo, for purely political ends, will cause serious damage to their mental health and wellbeing. Last time round, more than 90% of asylum seekers on TPVs were ultimately granted permanent protection, but the cost of attempting to repair their damaged lives has been immense. 

Why repeat the same mistakes?

The passing of this legislation was a very dark day for asylum seekers, for the upholding of human rights and for our international obligations. We should all hang our heads in shame.

Yours sincerely,


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