Immigration Minister Scott Morrison defended the heavily criticised redefining of asylum seekers arriving by boat from ‘irregular maritime arrivals’ to ‘illegal maritime arrivals’, stating the term refers only to mode of entry.
The government has faced further criticism for the suppression of information about asylum seeker boat arrivals. On Manus Island an emergency evacuation of staff on 18 October left asylum seekers locked inside the detention centre. The minister could not be contacted for comment. The temporary facility is at capacity, with a backlog of around 2000 people on Christmas Island awaiting relocation.
The annual Mapping Social Cohesion report says the proportion of people who think asylum seeker boats should be turned back has risen from 23 per cent in 2010 to 33 per cent this year, with 18 per cent saying asylum seekers who reach Australia by boat should be able to apply for permanent residency. The Anglican Church has called for a ‘sane conversation’ on asylum seeker policy.
An Australian Human Rights Commission report warns that returned asylum seekers from Sri Lanka risk harm under the government's enhanced screening process, while the Refugee Council of Australia says the reintroduction of Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs) is ‘needlessly punitive’. Medical professionals urged the government to urgently review its policy of overseas detention of pregnant asylum seekers.
In Indonesia, a west Timorese businessman suggested a 2009 oil spill forced fishermen to turn to people smuggling, while experts advise Australia’s deportation of seven West Papuan asylum seekers in September to Papua New Guinea breaches its obligations under the Refugees Convention.
Further afield, Italy has committed to overhauling Europe’s asylum policies and urged European Union action, following the deaths of more than 550 asylum seekers at sea this month. The United Kingdom’s controversial ‘Go home' vans are to be scrapped and 50,000 refugees may be granted ‘asylum amnesty’.