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Advocacy

Government strips many asylum seekers of their right to legal representation

The International Commission of Jurists Victoria strongly believes that the right to legal representation is an essential element of our legal system and of a free and vibrant democracy, without which, people’s rights are less likely to be enforced and observed, to everyone’s detriment.

Recently, the Federal Government has taken decisions which tend to abrogate the right to legal representation in two important respects.

First, Sydney barrister Jay Williams has twice been prevented from seeing and consulting his clients held at the Australian immigration detention facility on Manus Island. (seehttp://www.theage.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/lawyer-ordered-out-as-png-stops-another-manus-inquiry-20140327-35lru.html;http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-04-01/lawyer-jay-williams-deported-from-png/5359916 ).  His deportation by PNG should be objected to by the Australian government.  The government should take steps to ensure this decision is immediately reversed.

Second, the Australian government announced on 31 March (http://www.minister.immi.gov.au/media/sm/2014/sm213047.htm ) that no more government-funded legal assistance would be provided to boat arrival asylum seekers.

The practical consequence of these two facts is to strip many asylum seekers of their right to legal representation in our legal system.  This is depriving some of the most vulnerable people of their opportunity to make their case for the grant of asylum.  They are in Australia or Australia’s custody and subject to Australian law, in all its aspects, including fairness.  They have an undeniable right to claim asylum.  They should not be denied that opportunity.