The Rudd Government has been criticised for refusing to abolish the offshore processing of asylum seekers outside of Australian law on remote Christmas Island.
In 2001, Labor agreed with the Howard Government's move to excise Christmas and Cocos Islands as well as Ashmore and Cartier Reefs from Australia's migration zone, and thus preventing asylum seekers who reach them from invoking Australia's refugee protection system.
Refugee and human rights groups, including Amnesty International Australia, have urged the Government to reinstate Christmas Island to Australia's migration zone and abolish the two-tiered system of processing asylum seekers. The current system effectively allows for asylum seekers who have reached the mainland, and those who are intercepted by boat outside the zone, to be treated differently. To add to their isolation, the detention of these asylum seekers in such remote locations makes it increasingly difficult, and expensive for anyone who wishes to provide legal or other services to gain access to them.
Furthermore, this practice seems to create inconsistency in the application of immigration law for certain parts of the Australian territory, and yet still provides no guarantee that asylum seekers processed on Christmas Island, or the other excised zones who are found to be genuine refugees, will be resettled in Australia.
Despite statements made by Immigration Minister Chris Evans that, "The Australian Government is committed to dismantling the Pacific strategy", building a new $396 million detention centre on Christmas Island to process asylum seekers outside of the normal refugee protection regime, appears to undermine such commitment.
- Labor urged to end offshore asylum seeker processing, The Age, 22 January 2008