On Tuesday evening, the AIIA and Young Lawyers International Law Committee held their first joint event on the future of immigration and refugee law and policy in Australia. The event was a resounding success and was attended by more than 80 members of our respective organisations.

The discussion panel consisted of Sydney University professor, Mary Crock, whose specific research interests range from studies of the interaction between Parliament and the judiciary, to the legal rights of migrants and refugees. Her research and analysis of the various policies and laws enacted by the Australian Government exposed serious flaws in our approach to refugees and Mary’s passion added a dimension to the discussion that humanised the whole experience.

Mary was be followed by Kerry Murphy, a partner of D’Ambra Murphy Lawyers working on all aspects of migration law including administrative and judicial review. Kerry’s work has taken him to the many Detention Centres scattered throughout Australia and off-shore. Listening to some of his experiences and hearing about the hardship suffered in these camps was vital to appreciating the austerity of some of the immigration legislation passed in the last ten years.

Pouyan Afshar, the immediate past president of NSW Young Lawyers and an Associate at Baker & McKenzie, closed off the discussion with his account of the cultural and social elements that rarely gain a mention in these kinds of discussions. Drawing from his own experiences as a migration agent and working with refugees as an interpreter, Pouyan’s account of the economic, political and cultural dimensions of the debate regarding “illegal immigration” had a grounding affect that was the final ingredient required in such a discussion.

Immigration and refugee law in Australia has been thrown around the political landscape to emulate the same emotional reactions synonymous with crime and social welfare. This is not a political issue. As Mary states: “The number of refugees who come to Australia as asylum seekers – by plane or boat – is minute in world terms. The numbers are manageable. Most come because of prior connections with communities in Australia.” Australia has a legal, moral and ethical requirement to approach this issue as more than just a political one.

Discussions such as these are vital to understanding the real issues that face Australia regarding immigration and refugees and I’d like to thank our panellists for their insightful and grounded contribution to this debate.

If you would like to read more about this topic, please find below a selection of articles that deserve a read:

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