Migrants, refugees, and other displaced people cannot be detained where that would expose them to serious risks to their life or health due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Kaldor Centre says in a submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights.


The submission urges Australia’s parliamentarians to maintain key principles of refugee protection while crafting responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. The committee is meeting regularly by teleconference to scrutinise the human rights compatibility of legislation dealing with the current public health crisis.


Professors Jane McAdam and Guy S Goodwin-Gill provided the committee with the ‘Principles of Protection for Migrants, Refugees, and Other Displaced Persons’, which they developed with an expert group of international refugee and human rights lawyers to guide governments in their responses to COVID-19.


‘As members of the drafting committee, we believe that the 14 Principles provide a useful tool for your analysis of whether legislation complies with Australia’s obligations under international law, particularly when it comes to restrictions on movement (including immigration detention), access to health care, the right to information, and due process,’ McAdam and Goodwin-Gill wrote.


The Principles, which have been endorsed by 800 international experts, note that immigration laws must not be enforced in a manner that increases the risk of transmission of COVID-19, and that such enforcement must comport with fundamental norms of due process.


When it comes to social support, assistance should be provided to migrants, refugees, and other displaced people who lose their jobs and incomes due to the COVID-19 pandemic to the same extent that such protection is afforded to nationals.


Indeed the 14 Principles begin with equal treatment of all people, irrespective of their immigration and citizenship status or the fact of their displacement. Furthermore, governments have an obligation to combat stigma, racism and xenophobia.


The right to health must be respected for migrants, refugees, and other displaced people, including by ensuring that essential medicines, prevention, and treatment are provided in a non-discriminatory way.


The right to information and privacy is also covered in the 14 Principles, as is the need for special consideration for women and girls, the elderly, and those with a disability.


You are invited to read the full submission, which includes the 14 Principles.