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Amendments To Citizenship Bill Fail To Protect Children

Save the Children Australia warns that the Government’s changes to the Citizenship Act do not adequately protect the rights of Australian children, and that the Bill should not be passed in its current form
02 September 2020

Save the Children Australia warns that the Government’s changes to the Citizenship Act do not adequately protect the rights of Australian children, and that the Bill should not be passed in its current form. 

The leading child rights organisation recommended multiple amendments to the Bill, including an innocent child amendment, to strengthen safeguards and ensure that the rights of Australian children are protected. 

While there have been some changes recommended by the Parliamentary Joint Committee Intelligence and Security (PJCIS), they are minor and insufficient to address serious shortfalls with the Bill.

Save the Children Head of Policy, Simon Henderson is calling for the Parliament to amend the Bill to ensure Australia meets its international obligations to protect the rights of children. 

“In its current form, the Bill will place the welfare of innocent Australian children at greater risk,” said Mr Henderson. 

“There is the very real possibility that it could lead to children becoming stateless.”

“We are especially concerned for the 47 innocent Australian children in Al Hol camp in Syria, the majority of whom are under 6 years of age.” 

“Irrespective of what their parents may have done, these children are innocent and they must be protected from harm.”

“Denying children of citizenship puts them at greater risk of exploitation and abuse, a fact made very clear by the United Nations.”

“The recommendation by PJCIS to consider the effects of citizenship cessation on any dependents of that person in the Explanatory Memorandum, is inadequate. Any such changes should be in the Bill itself.”

Save the Children urges further reforms to be made to the Bill before its passage, to comply with our obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. This should include:

  • amendments to protect children against becoming stateless;
  • ensuring full consideration of the child’s individual capacity and connection to Australia in revoking citizenship; and
  • considerations of the child’s care, protection and safety in revoking citizenship.
“Waiting another three years to conduct a review of the citizenship cessation regime, as proposed by the PJCIS, is wholly insufficient,” said Mr Henderson. 

“Now is the time to make this Bill right and ensure that it better protects innocent Australian children.”

Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Conventions on Statelessness, Australia has obligations to prevent children from being or becoming stateless. Lack of any nationality has a profound impact on the ability of children to realise their basic rights, including rights to education, healthcare and freedom of movement.

Save the Children made a submission to the PJCIS Committee Review of the Australian Citizenship renunciation by conduct and cessation provisions of the Australian Citizenship Act 2017 in July 2019, to the PJCIS Committee review of the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Citizenship Cessation) Bill 2019 in October 2019 and a supplementary submission in February 2020.

ENDS 

For media inquiries please contact Kimberley Gardiner 0437 435 777.

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