UN CASE DOCUMENTS REVEAL THE GOVERNMENT’S ARGUMENT THAT CRIMINAL REPERCUSSIONS AND BEING UNABLE TO AID SICK RELATIVES ARE NOT SUFFICIENT GROUNDS TO ASSIST CITIZENS
Free and Open Australia has condemned attempts by the Australian Government to overturn a United Nations’ (UN) interim order that requires the country to ensure the prompt return of two Australians stranded overseas due to the government’s contentious COVID-19 border closures - a case initiated on behalf of all Australians who have faced issues returning home, because of the fact the UN will not accept class actions, but only individual cases.
The two Australians have been stranded abroad during the pandemic despite making attempts to return, and launched a landmark case with the UN against the Australian Government in March 2021 in order to return to Australia; one to comfort a close relative who is sick and the other to avoid a US criminal penalty for overstaying his visa due to the Australian Government’s border closures.
Documents reveal for the first time the Australian Government’s callous arguments in the case, including that the two men’s reasons for requesting repatriation support were not serious enough to justify government assistance.
In its secret response to the UN, so its arguments could not be appreciated by the public until now, the Australian Government argued that its extensive travel bans are temporary, despite being in force for more than 18 months, and that the applicants’ reasons were merely ‘disagreeable consequences’ of the airline caps.
The two stranded Australians applied to the UN under Article 12(4) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), one of the world’s longest standing and most critical multilateral human rights agreements. The ICCPR was ratified by the Fraser Government into Australian law in 1981.
On 15 April 2021, the UN found in their favour for interim measures, and issued a direction to Australia requiring it to ‘facilitate and ensure the prompt return’ of both citizens to Australia.
The two stranded Australians are being represented in their case by human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC and Lionel Nichols, who argue that under international law, the right to return to one’s native land is absolute and unqualified by any exceptions for public health.
Responding to the Australian Government’s argument, the applicants’ legal team said: “Instancing a stranded Australian ‘desperate to get back to Australia due to personal family reasons’, his right to return, is being obstructed by the government. How can the loss of the right ever be compensated for in money or called back in any way?
“It is not just a ‘disagreeable consequence’: it is the permanent loss of an opportunity that the right exists to vouchsafe. That is why it is necessary to ensure that it can be availed of promptly and before the Committee’s determination. It can never be retrieved or made the subject of meaningful compensation. To claim that it is ‘merely disagreeable’ is callous and inhumane.”
The case is ongoing, with the UN accepting the complainant’s applications and calling on the Australian Government to respond within six months.
The Australian Government’s argument that the disagreeable circumstances could be compensated by money may be leapt upon by many stranded Australians if the UN does rule that the government is in breach of the ICCPR.
Now with the continued issues of the hotel quarantine system, all those still stranded abroad are being further penalised with the incoming passenger caps being halved again, despite the current caps being completely insufficient at the previous low levels.
The Australian Government has enacted one of the most severe approaches to COVID-19 in the world and is being criticised for its perilously slow vaccine rollout and restrictions against those who are not only seeking to enter, but also those who are attempting to leave.
Free and Open Australia is a volunteer advocacy group formed to effect change to Australia’s inhumane border controls relating to Covid-19.
As a volunteer group, we need your financial support to continue our efforts on behalf of all Australians disadvantaged by the border restrictions.
Please visit our fundraising page at https://www.gofundme.com/f/Funds-for-Stranded-Aussies-UN-Legal-Campaign and find the link to support our fundraising efforts, and support the cause by sharing the website with your affected friends and family.