Lawyers say visas could breach Refugee Convention

LAWYERS are concerned the Abbott government's new laws to reintroduce temporary protection visas may be "unconstitutional" and could breach the Refugee Convention.

After Immigration Minister Scott Morrison secured the bill's passage through the Senate early on Friday morning, concerns were quickly raised about the changes.

The laws were previously criticised by refugee advocates for potentially allowing refugees to be sent back to countries where they could be under threat, and was a concern voiced again by the Australian Lawyers Alliance.

Changes to the Senate-approved asylum seeker laws included allowing potential refugees to take visas to work in regional areas and the reintroduction of TPV's, despite questions around long-term settlement.

Mr Morrison on Friday hit out at opponents of the legislation, including Labor and The Greens, saying he would not "take moral lectures from Bill Shorten or Sarah Hanson-Young" on border protection.

He said the Opposition and The Greens had "proven themselves irrelevant" on the issue, despite concerns raised by both parties and lawyers about the reforms.

Hours after the bill passed the Senate, ALA spokesman Greg Barns said the bill could be "unconstitutional" and may breach the United Nations Refugee Convention.

He said the changes meant Australia was abandoning its core obligations under the Convention, and the High Court was likely to "take a very close look" at the new laws.

His comments followed those of independent MP Andrew Wilkie, who this week confirmed the International Criminal Court was assessing the government's existing and new laws to see if they breached the Rome Statute.

The statute is a treaty outlining the crimes that fall under the ICC's jurisdiction. Mr Wilkie wrote last month to the ICC to ask for the assessment.

He said the ICC had responded. Mr Wilkie said they were considering the issue, which he took confidence from as "many applications are simply dismissed with a form letter".

The new laws were passed with the support of Senator Ricky Muir.


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