Media contact

We are Australian scholars concerned that new Australian legislation, the Australian Border Force Act 2015, has jeopardized the ability of the independent UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants to conduct his proposed mission to Australia, Nauru and Papua New Guinea. Under the Act, immigration detention centre employees risk a prison term of two years if they speak out about the conditions of the detention facilities and related matters.

Although the Australian government could allow a detention centre worker to speak to the Special Rapporteur without the risk of prosecution, it has chosen not to do so in this case. This calls into question the Australian government’s claim that it is willing to cooperate with UN procedures in good faith. In this instance, the government has refused to abide by the UN guidelines for fact-finding missions by Special Rapporteurs, which require that the Special Rapporteur have complete freedom of inquiry, access to detention facilities, and official assurances that no one who discloses information to the Special Rapporteur will be subjected to judicial proceedings for that reason.

We are also concerned that the Special Rapporteur was denied access to Australia’s offshore detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea, especially in light of the findings that have emerged in recent Australian Senate Committee inquiries and independent reports about serious human rights violations in those places.

Signed by:

  1. Dr Gabrielle Appleby, UNSW
  2. Dr Michaela Baker, Macquarie University
  3. Dr Dani Barrington, Monash University/International WaterCentre
  4. Dr Linda Bartolomei, Centre for Refugee Research, UNSW
  5. Dr Laurie Berg, University of Technology Sydney
  6. Dr Karen Block, University of Melbourne
  7. Dr Nina Burridge, University of Technology, Sydney
  8. Lesley Carnus, Refugee Language Program, Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Sydney
  9. Professor Stephen Castles, Research Professor in Sociology, University of Sydney
  10. Dr Ignacio Correa-Velez, Queensland University of Technology
  11. Professor Mary Crock, University of Sydney
  12. Dr Azadeh Dastyari, Monash University
  13. Tina Davis, University of Sydney
  14. Bassina Farbenblum, Faculty of Law, UNSW
  15. Dr Miriam Faine, Monash University
  16. Dr Anna Filipi, Monash University
  17. Ellen Finlay, University of Notre Dame
  18. Dr Caroline Fleay, Centre for Human Rights Education, Curtin University
  19. Professor Sandy Gifford, Swinburne University
  20. Madeline Gleeson, Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law, UNSW
  21. Dr Dimitria Groutsis, University of Sydney
  22. Dr Lisa Hartley, Centre for Human Rights Education, Curtin University
  23. Dr Claire Higgins, Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law, UNSW
  24. Khanh Hoang, Migration Law Program, ANU College of Law
  25. Professor Sarah Joseph, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, Monash University
  26. Associate Professor Mary Anne Kenny, Murdoch University
  27. Professor Sue Kenny, Deakin University
  28. Professor Susan Kneebone, Melbourne Law School
  29. Elsa Koleth, University of Sydney, Department of Sociology and Social Policy
  30. Dr Timothy Laurie, Lecturer in Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne
  31. Sohoon Lee, University of Sydney
  32. Yao Li,  University of California, San Diego
  33. Dr Maureen Long, La Trobe University
  34. Jovana Mastilovic, Griffith University
  35. Professor Jane McAdam, Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law, UNSW
  36. Professor Bernadette McSherry, Melbourne Social Equity Institute, University of Melbourne
  37. Dr Ann Morrow, University of Melbourne alumnus
  38. Professor Philomena Murray, University of Melbourne
  39. Susan O'Leary, Monash University
  40. Professor Nicola Piper, University of Sydney
  41. Rebecca Powell, The Border Crossing Observatory, Monash University
  42. Professor Nicholas Procter, University of South Australia
  43. Cathy Rytmeister, Macquarie University
  44. Dr Robyn Sampson, Swinburne University of Technology
  45. Professor Ben Saul, Faculty of Law, University of Sydney
  46. Dr Andrea Schalley, Griffith University
  47. Professor Robert Schweitzer , Queensland University of Technology
  48. Dr Marie Segrave, Monash University
  49. Dr Olivera Simic, Griffith Law School
  50. Professor Charles Sowerwine, University of Melbourne/La Trobe University
  51. Maria Tanyag, Monash University
  52. Associate Professor Savitri Taylor, Law School, La Trobe University
  53. Dr Claudia Tazreiter, UNSW
  54. Jacquie Tinkler, Charles Sturt University
  55. Professor Jacqui True, Monash University
  56. Dr Elsa Underhill, Deakin University
  57. Anthea Vogl, Faculty of Law, University of Technology Sydney
  58. Max Walden, Macquarie University
  59. Dr Leanne Weber, Monash University
  60. Jennifer Whelan, Human Rights Clinic, UNSW
  61. Tamara Wood, Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law, UNSW
  62. Professor Chris F Wright, University of Sydney
  63. Dr Anna Ziersch, Flinders University
  64. Dr Philip Zylstra, University of Wollongong

For more on why Australia has legal obligations towards those in offshore detention, read the Kaldor Centre fact sheet.

The Special Rapporteur explained the reasons for the cancellation of the visit in a statement here

EDS: Additional signatories to the letter over time can be seen here.