The concept of excising Australia from Australia has been called a lot of names over the years, and certainly not just from people in the Amnesty office.
It's actually a sneaky (and rather confusing) loophole that the government uses to try and get out of protecting people seeking asylum. So we've broken down what this means for the rights of refugees and asylum seekers.
What is excision?
Excision is not a new concept for Australia. 4000 or so small Australian islands to our north have been excised for years now. It's what gives the Australian Government the power to send asylum seekers offshore to places like Nauru and Manus Island.
"Excision is what gives the Australian Government the power to send asylum seekers to places like Nauru and Manus Island."
It has meant that anyone who arrives in the excised territory and claims asylum has had most of their rights as asylum seekers taken away from them. Even scarier, they have been removed from the Australian legal system. This means that people are not subject to Australia’s existing laws and protections, like access to the justice system.
Thankfully in recent years, the government has allowed asylum seekers who arrive in excised places (like Christmas Island) to lodge an application, to appeal a decision and to access the Australian courts. But this could be changed by the government at any time, no questions asked.
Does excision break human rights law?
"Australia has signed the Refugee Convention, so it has a legal responsibility to assess the claims of any asylum seekers arriving in its territory."
There is no doubt that excision seriously violates the right to seek asylum.
Australia has signed the Refugee Convention, so it has a legal responsibility to assess the claims of any asylum seekers arriving in its territory.
However excision allows the government to pretend that Australian territory isn't really Australian territory when it comes to seeking asylum. It can also pretend that it’s sticking to its legal responsibility to protect refugees who arrive here.
It’s just that 'here' no longer applies to vast swaths of Australian territory, including - once the bill is passed - our entire coastline.
The UNHCR has made it pretty clear that they aren't buying this, and seem to be sticking to the radical idea that you can’t just pass a law saying that Australian territory isn’t Australian territory, and that human rights don’t apply there.
Will this help to save people's lives?
"The government has argued that excision is a decision between human rights and human lives. We disagree."
The government has argued that excision is necessary to save lives -- that it's a decision between human rights and human lives. We disagree.
The thing is that human rights and human lives are inextricably linked. People flee for their lives because their human rights were abused in their homeland - countries like Afghanistan, Burma and Sri Lanka.
They are getting on boats because they know that they will only have a life if they reach a country that will protect their human rights - countries like Australia.