Boat­peo­ple face lifetime ban from Aus­tralia

The Myanmar Times - - World -

AUS­TRALIA has moved to bar any refugee or asy­lum seeker who ar­rives in the coun­try il­le­gally by boat from ever be­ing able to ap­ply for a visa, even as tourists or for busi­ness.

The lifetime ban will be put to par­lia­ment when it next sits, with Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull say­ing it was nec­es­sary to send an “ab­so­lutely, un­flinch­ing, un­equiv­o­cal mes­sage” that boat­peo­ple will never be al­lowed in Aus­tralia.

“This is a bat­tle of will be­tween the Aus­tralian peo­ple, rep­re­sented by its gov­ern­ment, and the crim­i­nal gangs of peo­ple-smug­glers,” he said.

“You should not un­der­es­ti­mate the scale of the threat. Th­ese peo­plesmug­glers are the worst crim­i­nals imag­in­able. They have a multi-bil­lion­dol­lar busi­ness.

“We have to be very de­ter­mined to say no to their crim­i­nal plans.”

Amend­ments to the mi­gra­tion act would be back­dated to mid-2013, when then-La­bor prime min­is­ter Kevin Rudd de­clared, “As of to­day, asy­lum seek­ers who come here by boat without a visa will never be set­tled in Aus­tralia.”

Canberra cur­rently sends all boat­peo­ple to off­shore pro­cess­ing camps on the Pa­cific is­lands of Nauru and Pa­pua New Guinea’s Manus.

They are al­ready blocked from Aus­tralia even if found to be gen­uine refugees. They can ei­ther re­turn home, make a life on Manus or Nauru, or go to a third coun­try.

The new leg­is­la­tion would af­fect those sent to Nauru and Manus from July 19, 2013, in­clud­ing those who have re­turned home, and any­one who ar­rives in the fu­ture.

But chil­dren will be ex­empt and the im­mi­gra­tion min­is­ter would have the power to make ex­cep­tions.

The Nauru fa­cil­ity holds just over 400 men, women and chil­dren.

Some 800 men are de­tained on Manus, which Aus­tralia in Au­gust agreed to close after a Pa­pua New Guinea court rul­ing that hold­ing peo­ple there was un­con­sti­tu­tional and il­le­gal.

Rights group have al­leged there is wide­spread abuse and self-harm in the camps.

Mr Turn­bull said the move would re­in­force to refugee ad­vo­cates still hop­ing Aus­tralia will ac­cept some of those on Nauru or Manus that it will never hap­pen.

Aus­tralia has boosted its an­nual hu­man­i­tar­ian refugee in­take in re­cent years from 13,750 to 18,750, and has also agreed to take 12,000 dis­placed in Syria and Iraq.

Refugee ad­vo­cates said the plan was un­ac­cept­able, with Save the Chil­dren fear­ing it will fur­ther ex­ac­er­bate the men­tal an­guish of those held in the Pa­cific camps.

“We have grave con­cerns that this kind of an­nounce­ment will push peo­ple over the edge,” said the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s direc­tor of pol­icy in Aus­tralia, Mat Tin­kler.

“The gov­ern­ment must act ur­gently to give hope to th­ese peo­ple, not con­tinue to take it away.”

Refugee and Im­mi­gra­tion Le­gal Cen­tre lawyer David Manne agreed that the pro­posal pun­ished gen­uine refugees.

“This does noth­ing to ad­dress that fun­da­men­tal ques­tion about where they are go­ing to be taken so that they can re­build their lives in safety and with dig­nity,” he told the Aus­tralian Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion in Syd­ney.

Since the start of “Op­er­a­tion Sov­er­eign Bor­ders” in Septem­ber 2013, the con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment has man­aged to halt the flood of boat ar­rivals, and drown­ings, that char­ac­terised pre­vi­ous La­bor ad­min­is­tra­tions.

Photo: EPA

Mal­colm Turn­bull sends out a strong mes­sage.

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