NATION

Fijian Government should review its immigration and border control laws

I now confirm that Loghman Sawari, an Iranian refugee that arrived in Fiji almost a week ago was deported yesterday morning to Papua New Guinea by the Immigration Department. The
04 Feb 2017 11:06
Fijian Government should review its  immigration and border control laws
Ashwin Raj

I now confirm that Loghman Sawari, an Iranian refugee that arrived in Fiji almost a week ago was deported yesterday morning to Papua New Guinea by the Immigration Department.

The Fijian Government met with the PNG High Commissioner on Wednesday to discuss the matter and establish the facts. A diplomatic note was subsequently sent to the High Commissioner notifying the steps taken by the Fijian Government.

The deportation of Mr Sawari raises fundamental questions about Fiji’s capacity to balance the imperatives of national security with its international human rights obligations.

From the perspective of international human rights law, Mr Sawari’s deportation is contrary to international human rights law and in particular Article 31, Article 32 and Article 33 of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees which Fiji succeeded to in 1972.

Article 32 on expulsion provides that:

The Contracting States shall not expel a refugee lawfully in their territory save on grounds of national security or public order.

The expulsion of such a refugee shall be only in pursuance of a decision reached in accordance with due process of law. Except where compelling reasons of national security otherwise require, the refugee shall be allowed to submit evidence to clear himself, and to appeal to and be represented for the purpose before competent authority or a person or persons specially designated by the competent authority.

The Contracting States shall allow such a refugee a reasonable period within which to seek legal admission into another country. The Contracting States reserve the right to apply during that period such internal measures as they may deem necessary.

Furthermore, Article 33 on the prohibition of expulsion or return (‘refoulment”) provides that:

No Contracting State shall expel or return (“refouler”) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.

The benefit of the present provision may not, however, be claimed by a refugee whom there are reasonable grounds for regarding as a danger to the security of the country in which he is, or who, having been convicted by a final judgment of a particularly serious crime, constitutes a danger to the community of that country.

The HRADC is concerned that this decision by the Immigration has the possibility of exposing him to inhuman and degrading treatment.

This dissonance between the national immigration legislation and Fiji’s international human rights obligations underscores the importance of legislative review in ensuring that our legal framework is complaint with our international human rights obligations.

While I take cognisance of the fact that Fiji succeeded to the Refugee Convention in 1972 and presented with the case of a refugee in 2017, a lapse of 45 years, I now implore the Fijian Government to review our immigration and border control laws through the Justice, Law and Human Rights Parliamentary Standing Committee.

Let us not obfuscate from the ugly truth that this is not a Fijian problem alone.

The fact is that advanced liberal democracies like Australia have abnegated their responsibilities by incarcerating human beings rendered stateless and displaced by war, discrimination on the basis of ethnic, racial, religious or sexual identity or political opinion in the most deplorable conditions with no regard to human dignity or human rights in places such as Manus Islands.

If we are going to occupy an indomitable moral plateau and judge Fiji, then Australia must take responsibility too and stop using the Pacific as its dumping ground.

These are human beings and they deserve dignity so stop the people trade!

It is a matter of national shames that political leaders such as Professor Biman Prasad of the National Federation Party and Mahendra Chaudhry of the Fiji Labour Party cashed into this situation for political gain by invoking fears of national security placing enormous burden on the Fijian Immigration.

However, it is clear from this incident that Immigration and Police would also benefit from training on the Refugee Convention and international human rights law.

Migration is now a global problem to which the only answer is a human rights response.

Feedback: jyotip@fijisun.com.fj

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