Multilateral framework may diminish rights of asylum seekers

22 October 2009

The Dean, Professor Gillian Triggs commented on the joint approach undertaken by Australia and Indonesia in relation to asylum seekers in today's edition of The Australian.

Both Australia and Indonesia are bound by changes made to the the Safety of Life at Sea Convention in 2006, following the Tampa incident in 2001.

However, there are suggestions that the recent incident involving HMAS Armidale, and the 78 Sri Lankan asylum seekers it rescued, is a diplomatic way of obscuring the fact Indonesia was obliged under international law to allow the asylum-seekers to land.

Indonesia agreed on Tuesday to accept the asylum-seekers after talks with Australia, but commentators suggest there was no need for Australia to obtain agreement before taking them to Indonesia.

A spokesman for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono indicated that officials from Australia and Indonesia would be working over coming weeks on a framework to govern future incidents.

Professor Triggs expressed concern if the proposed framework diminished the right of asylum-seekers to have their claims assessed.

She stipulated that if the framework agreement allowed asylum-seekers to be picked up at sea and sent to Indonesia, it would mean Australia "would appear to be shirking its international responsibilities".

"If they are not in distress, you cannot do anything until they hit Australian waters."

View the entire article - Jakarta bound by new law of the sea

Contact: Greg Sherington

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