In a majority decision, the High Court rejected a challenge to the constitutionality of Australia’s offshore processing system brought against by a Bangladeshi refugee. The decision upholds the government’s policy of returning 267 refugees to Nauru. Reporting pointed to changes to the Migration Act in June 2015 which undermined the challenge, and more recently, the Nauruan government’s decision to create an open centre.
In response to the court decision, a series of protests under the banner ‘Let Them Stay’ were held. Churches offered sanctuary to those who may be transferred offshore. Sanctuary is a common law principle yet to be tested under the Australian judicial system, which would provide protection against civil authorities.
A medical team led by the Australian Human Rights Commission found that 95 per cent of children detained at Nauru are at risk of developing post traumatic stress disorder and recommended that children not be sent back to Nauru.
A government document prepared by the National Security Committee planning reforms of Australia’s immigration policy was leaked. The document showed plans to ‘create stronger controls over access to permanent residency and citizenship’.
The UNCHR estimated that 62,000 refugees crossed the Mediterranean in January 2016, sixteen times more than the 5,500 recorded in January 2015. Meanwhile, the EU called on Turkey to re-open its borders to Syrians fleeing fighting in Aleppo. It is estimated that 35,000 asylum seekers are currently trapped at the border.