Despite a pre-election promise to return excised territory to the Migration Act, the Rudd government has kept Christmas Island and Ashmore Reef excised. Asylum seekers processed offshore have fewer rights than those reaching the mainland.
They are still considered offshore applicants and are unable to access Australian courts, even if they are later brought to the mainland. After an interview on arrival, they have a “refugee status assessment” hearing. If they are rejected at this stage, they may appeal to an “independent” reviewer. But both assessors and reviewers are appointed by the government. A second rejection makes them liable to be deported. Unlike the onshore Refugee Review Tribunal decisions, offshore decisions are not published.
The government’s commitment to a 90-day limit for determinations on refugee status has never applied to Christmas Island. But if refugee processing can be done in 90 days on the mainland, why are the Tamils and the others left in limbo for months on the island?
Over 100 Tamils, Iranians and Iraqis are now in Villawood potentially facing deportation. This gives the refugee campaign an opportunity to raise awareness and focus attention on all the problems that have so far been hidden on Christmas Island.


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