Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s threat to “punt” refugees who break the law have been criticised as inflammatory and irresponsible.
By Rosemary Bolger
Migration law experts say the government is unlikely to be able to deport refugees who break the law in Australia, despite Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s vow to kick out an Iraqi refugee who indecently assaulted a child.
The government has stepped up its crackdown on foreign criminals, with Mr Morrison on Thursday warning people on protection visas they would be sent back if they commit a serious crime.
The prime minister was speaking after the government cancelled the protection visa of Iraqi refugee Mohammed Hassan Al Bayati, who was this week sentenced to four and a half years in jail for kidnapping and indecently assaulting a three-year-old girl in Sydney.
“Just because you’re on a protection visa, it’s a warning to anyone, we’ll cancel it and we’ll punt you,” Mr Morrison told Sunrise on Thursday.
Peter McMullin Centre on Statelessness Director Michelle Foster said Mr Morrison’s rhetoric undermined the system in place to deal with these matters.
“To preempt a decision in that way and to use extremely inflammatory and emotive language is arguably quite irresponsible,” Professor Foster told SBS News.
Australia has committed to a range of international conventions designed to prevent refoulement – the forced return of refugees to countries where they face persecution and serious harm.
But the government does have the power to disregard its non-refoulement obligations if they deem a refugee to pose a danger.
Indefinite detention more likely
Nearly 4,000 foreign criminals have been kicked out of Australia since the government tightened the character test in 2014, but it’s unclear how many of those were on permanent protection visas.
Sydney barrister Jason Donnelly, who has represented a North Korean person facing expulsion from Australia due to drug charges, said it was “unthinkable” that Australia would try to return someone to a country where they could face persecution or serious harm.
“He (Scott Morrison) is effectively saying we don’t care or we will have no regard to the effect of what it means to be found to be a refugee, mainly that they would face a risk of harm in their country of origin such as being persecuted, potentially killed or some other kind of inhumane conduct,” Dr Donnelly told SBS News.
“To ignore that as a potentially powerful compelling consideration and just remove them is an affront to individualised justice and the rule of law.”
But migration law experts cast doubt on Mr Morrison’s declaration that Al Bayati will be sent back to Iraq.
While the government does have the power under existing migration laws, it is more likely Al Bayati will end up in indefinite detention after he serves his jail sentence.
“The understanding is the person can’t be sent back because of fear of persecution so in that context they may, in fact, end up in indefinite detention,” Professor Foster said.
“Australia’s system of indefinite detention has been found to violate our human rights obligations on countless occasions by the UN Human Rights Committee.”
Source SBS News