Open letter: Sea screening of asylum seekers a concern

MORE than 50 leading international law experts have expressed their "profound concern" over reports of an inadequate screening process of asylum seekers while at sea.

An open letter from the 53 Australian academics, from institutions including Australian National University and the University of Sydney among others, was released online on Wednesday.

Among the co-authors were top law experts including Professor Peter Bailey and Donald Rothwell at ANU.

The letter said reports that "asylum seekers have been subject to rapid and inadequate screening interviews at sea and returned to Sri Lanka" raised a real risk of breaches of international refugees and human rights law.

"Such summary procedures do not comply with minimum standards on refugee status determination under international law," the statement reads.

"Holding asylum seekers on boats in this manner also amounts to incommunicado detention without judicial scrutiny."

The co-authors also called on the government to release its "legal justification for this operation", despite recent statements from Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Immigration Minister Scott Morrison the government had no plans to do so.

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