Changes to act would allow Scott Morrison to 'play God'

Changes to a core migration act, which critics argue could allow Scott Morrison to “play God” and decide the fate of asylum seekers, have been investigated by a Senate committee.

Under current complementary protection visa requirements, people not defined as "refugees" - such as women who are fleeing from honour killings, genital female mutilation or torture victims - can be granted visas through the normal refugee processes.

Now, under the proposed changes Mr Morrison will have discretionary power to rule the fate of these asylum seekers.

The Greens party, academics and refugee advocates argue the changes will risk Australia's compliance with international law, could harm vulnerable people, will remove standard legal processes and protections, and could create errors by introducing inefficient processing measures.

On Tuesday the Senate committee recommended the bill be passed, as long as administrative processes are put in place. But it still remains unlikely the bill will pass in the Senate.

Only five years ago, then Labor immigration minister Chris Evans likened the responsibility of the Migration Act to "playing God", saying he had too much power and the workload was too immense. The act was subsequently changed 19 months ago.

In a submission to the inquiry, president of the Human Rights Commission, Gillian Triggs said the bill would increase the risk of Australia breaking its international obligations.

"We think there will be an increase in the risk that Australia will return people to their countries of origin despite the fact there is a real risk they will suffer irreparable harm, including torture or death, on their return," Dr Triggs wrote in her submission.

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said the government had an "unhealthy obsession with power."

“Without Complementary Protection, the Immigration Minister himself will decide who gets protection and who gets sent home with a single stroke of his pen," Senator Hanson-Young said.

Meanwhile, Australia's treatment of Sri Lankan asylum seekers was addressed on Tuesday night at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.

In a statement to the session, human rights lawyer Emily Howie from the The Human Rights Law Centre told the session that Australia's efforts in ''stopping the boats'' was violating the rights of Sri Lankans at risk of persecution from Sri Lankan authorities.

"Australia's forced return of Sri Lankans after an inadequate refugee determination process violates Australia's obligation to non-refoulement," she said.

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