Australian government and the issue of asylum seekers

Australian government and the issue of asylum seekers

Written by Staff Writer

22 Jul, 2014 | 7:09 pm

The Australian government has argued its international obligations of non-refoulement – returning asylum seekers to countries they have fled in fear of persecution – do not apply to interceptions outside Australian territorial waters.

The Guardian Website reports that government defence documents filed to the high court case examining the interception, procedure and treatment of more than 150 asylum seekers who left southern India in early June, also reveal that the decision not to allow the asylum seekers to be transferred to Australia was taken by the National Security Committee, tasked with “major international security issues of strategic importance to Australia” and chaired by the prime minister.

The Australian government is arguing it holds the power to detain the asylum seekers – whose boat was intercepted in Australia’s “contiguous zone”, near Christmas Island – under the Maritime Powers Act.

According to The Guardian , the defence also concedes, as lawyers acting for the asylum seekers had argued, that the intercepted asylum seekers, being held at sea by a government border protection vessel, have been split up.

But it says they are allowed three hours to move around the vessel in daylight.

It had previously been reported there were 153 persons on board the boat that left Pondicherry in Tamil Nadu, southern India, but the defence shows there were in fact 157.

Correspondent for the Guardian, Oliver Laughland elaborated further:

“… It was filed to a directions hearing at the High Court and the hope was that the judge would have made a ruling by now , but unfortunately both parties did not come to an agreement on what terms of the case are, So we are hoping to hear where the case is going to end up, what in term of reference would be, tomorrow afternoon.”

He added: “The Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has headed over to India, we understand to talk to his counterparts over there and there is alot of speculation here, that is to trying to send the people on board this boat back to India , which where it left from back in the 11th of June …”

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