The Pacific plan: The provision of ‘effective protection’?

The issue that is examined in this article is whether the Australian model of extraterritorial processing is one that provides ‘effective protection’ to asylum seekers. The legal foundation of the Pacific Strategy was by means of new interdiction powers and an extension of the notion of safe third country. Three issues are examined: the first is the meaning of effective protection under this extended notion of safe third country, the second is the extent to which Australia’s Pacific Strategy provided such protection, the third is what lessons can be learnt from the Australian model. Following an examination of the Refugee Convention and UNHCR Executive Committee Conclusions, it is concluded that ‘effective protection’ in this context requires ‘durable solutions’ and freedom from arbitrary detention, penalties, discrimination and refoulement. In respect to the latter freedom, it requires adequate processes. The human rights of asylum seekers must be respected, including their social and economic rights, as far as possible. It is concluded that Australia’s Pacific Strategy did not provide ‘effective protection’ in this sense. In particular, issues in relation to the processing arrangements and non-durable solutions are highlighted as leading to lessons for other extraterritorial processing initiatives.

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