A gathering of interested individuals, from diplomats to AFP officers to community members, filled the tables in anticipation of a talk on human rights and the law by the President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Professor Gillian Triggs. Focusing on the role of human rights law, she discussed the history of Australia’s role in human rights and the current tensions between courts and the parliament on protections regarding asylum seekers. Since much of international law is not binding within Australia, human rights are often left by the wayside.
Discussing how the Commission has an upcoming inquiry into the children held on Christmas Island, Triggs explained how they were having trouble attaining even basic information from the Australian government on these children, such as where they are located and their ages, but also on more pressing issues, such as self-harm rates. Since more unaccompanied minors are being taken from Christmas Island to Nauru, the Commission had requested an inquiry into the immigration detention facility there and on Manus Island, but were denied by the government. Putting this into perspective, she explained how offshore processing was not illegal under current Australian law, but how Australia as a culture needed to shift to a human rights agenda in order to see outcomes in this area.
Triggs discussed how over 33,000 asylum claims have not yet been processed which has left these asylum seekers in a legal black hole with no access to court procedures. If their claims had been denied, they would have access to legal redress, but as it stands they are currently without any legal rights. She stated this, and the issues of offshore detention, needed to be addressed culturally, as law might not hold the answers to these questions. Hosted by the Australian Intercultural Society over Turkish food, this talk lead to fruitful discussion around the issues of detention, human rights, and the future of asylum seekers in Australia.
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