Human Rights Commission expresses concerns over new laws

NEW laws to excise the Australian mainland from the international refugee convention will discriminate against the most vulnerable people in society, the Australian Human Rights Commission said on Thursday.

Commission president Professor Gillian Triggs expressed disappointment after the Senate approved the bills on Thursday morning.

The bills will mean refugees who make it to the mainland by boat will be taken to offshore detention centres for processing, rather than staying in Australia.

"By targeting 'unauthorised maritime arrivals', the legislation discriminates against vulnerable people and penalises them because of the way they arrive in Australia," Prof Triggs said.

"This undermines Australia's obligations under the Refugee Convention."

The commission again raised its concerns about the fate of asylum seekers in the offshore processing system.

"Transferring asylum seekers to third countries may lead to breaches of their human rights, including the right to be free from arbitrary detention and the right of children to have their best interests treated as a primary consideration," Prof Triggs said.

She said children should only ever be detained if it was a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time.

"We have serious concerns about the ongoing detention of children on Manus Island in difficult conditions," Prof Triggs said.

"We have recommended that the Australian Government cease transferring asylum-seekers to Manus Island and that asylum-seekers currently on Manus Island be returned to Australia."