The Australian Federal Government wants to pass laws to make sure no asylum seekers who tried to come to Australia by boat, even those found to be refugees, can ever enter the country.
The Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull today told media “the door to Australia is closed to those who seek to come here by boat with a people smuggler”.
“That absolutely unflinching, unequivocal message has to be loud and clear,” he told reporters in Sydney this morning.
The government will ask parliament to ban everyone who was sent to Nauru or Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island for offshore immigration processing after July 19, 2013 – the date 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.”
The ban would apply whether or not they were found to be refugees and extends to all types of visas, including tourist and business categories.
Asylum seekers aged under 18 at the time they were sent to Nauru or Manus Island would be exempt.
The minister would also have power to lift the bar if they believe it’s in the public interest for someone to be allowed in to Australia.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton described the plan as one of the government’s strongest moves, building on the success of its border protection policies over the past three years.
It sent a clear message that Australia was not an option.
“There are still people, advocates in Australia and elsewhere, who are messaging to people on Nauru and Manus, that at some stage you’ll come to Australia,” Mr Dutton said.
“Those people are living in false hope and it cannot continue.” The legislation would reflect the coalition’s long-standing policy and what it understood to be Labor’s position, Mr Turnbull said.
He expects the opposition will give “unequivocal support” to the move.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop earlier this morning said the government would enshrine in law what had been a longstanding policy.
“This is a tough message we are sending to the people smuggling syndicates and those who pay people smugglers to try and enter Australia,” she told ABC TV.
“We are sending a strong message to those currently in Manus and Nauru, if they are found to be owed protection, they will not be resettled in Australia. If they’re not found to be owed protection, they should return home.”
This would even apply to accepted refugees later attempting to visit via tourist visa, she said.
“I will never forget 1200 people that we know of drowned at sea coming to Australia under these people smuggling networks,” she said. “We cannot have situations where people are drowning at sea and that is why we are working through the case load, the cohort of people who are on Manus and Nauru, to find third country resettlements for them and if they want to stay in PNG and in Nauru, they can be resettled there.”
Mr Turnbull expects Labor and its leader Bill Shorten will support the laws, saying they are “entirely consistent with his party’s stated public position”.
Mr Dutton added Australia has ‘discussions ongoing with a number of countries’ on the issue of resettling the asylum seekers already at Naru and Manus.
Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek said it was too soon to determine if Labor would support the bill.
“What I’d say is it’s a distraction from Peter Dutton’s hopeless mismanagement of his portfolio,” she told reporters on the Gold Coast.
“It is extraordinary that, three years on, the government has not found third countries to resettle those people who are in limbo on Manus Island and Nauru.” She said Mr Dutton needed to find a permanent resettlement option for these people left in limbo.
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