Weekly media wrap - 28 December 2015

Around 8,000 people signed a petition to the Australian Government, accompanied by a letter to Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop, asking it to ratify the United Nations’ Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture. Ratification would require Australia to accept UN inspections of immigration detention centres.

Major General Andrew Bottrell, Commander of Operation Sovereign Borders, indicated that people smugglers are using tactics to convince people that the Australian government's policies have changed, and using the Christmas period as a way to encourage people to board boats to Australia.

The Inside Story reports that no places have been taken as part of the agreement made between Australia and New Zealand to resettle between 150 and 175 refugees from Australia’s offshore processing system annually from 2014. A senior official has confirmed that the offer remains on the table, but there is a view that this approach would undermine a key tenet of Australia’s current policy – that is, not providing opportunity for asylum seekers who arrive illegally to settle in Australia.

Some refugees who arrived to Australia prior to 2012 have expressed concern about their refugee status in Australia after receiving letters from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, requiring them to have their refugee status reassessed to obtain a Temporary Protection Visa. This group is part of the backlog of 30,000 people currently on the Department’s books.

A boat carrying asylum seekers capsized off the coast of Turkey, where eighteen people drowned. At least 24 people have died in similar circumstances this week.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and International Organisation for Migration jointly reported that more than one million asylum seekers and migrants reached Europe in 2015, which includes over 970,000 who crossed the Mediterranean. This amounts to four times the number of arrivals in 2014. Half of those who arrived in Europe in 2015 were Syrians.