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Australia proposes Migration Amendment to implement lifetime ban for illegal asylum seekers

Canberra, Oct 30: Asylum seekers who use people smugglers to illegally come to Australia by boat will be given a lifetime ban from entering the country, under a government plan set to be put to Parliament next week.

Even if they are found to be legitimate refugees, those who employ the use of illegal people smugglers to make their way to Australia will never be allowed into the country, even as a tourist.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced, Sunday, that his government would seek to amend the Migration Act in order to prevent “irregular maritime arrivals” from ever applying for an Australian visa.

“As of today, asylum seekers who come here by boat without a visa will never be settled in Australia.

“The door to Australia is closed to those who seek to come here by boat with a people smuggler,” he said.

According to the Coalition, the lifetime ban will extend to those who have been sent to Australian detention centers on Nauru or Manus Island since July 19, 2013, however the laws will not affect children.

If enacted, the law would be an effective life-time ban on all people processed in any offshore refugee centre.

Mr Turnbull urged the opposition to support the proposal citing Mr Rudd’s immigration policies.

He said that the law was a follow-up to former Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s pledge in July 2013 that any asylum seeker who comes to Australia by boat without a visa would “never be settled in Australia”.

“They must know that the door to Australia is closed to those who seek to come here by boat with a people smuggler,” he said.

He added that no refugee boat had reached Australia in over a period of 800 days.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said that the announcement would help to stamp out “false hope”.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the laws would send a “tough message” not only to people smugglers, but to those thinking of coming to Australia illegally.

Meanwhile, Pauline Hanson of One Nation has claimed the proposed change as her own, from which the Coalition is “taking its cues”.

However, legal experts and refugee advocates have expressed “shock” at the Coalition’s proposed life ban on boat arrivals.

Barrister Greg Barnes, a spokesman for the Australian Lawyers Alliance, said the proposed law is “extraordinary”, and warned it could lose a High Court challenge because it is “completely antithetical” to Australia’s obligations under the UN Refugee Convention.

Speaking to The New Daily, he said that the idea of banning people “from even making a claim under the Convention simply on the mode of transport is, I think, something the High Court would have some real difficulty with.

“If enacted, the law would be a world first,” Mr Barnes said.

He said he was not aware of any other country that would discriminate against people claiming asylum, on the basis of the mode of transport.

Refugee Council of Australia CEO Tim O’Connor said the proposal was “extremely concerning”.

According to the Council, an estimated 3000 refugees are living in Australia who arrived by boat since 2013 and if the law was to be enacted, future of these refugees would be in limbo.

Mr O’Connor told The New Daily that this proposal was being perceived as “real discrimination”.

While Greens have pleaded with Labor to oppose the proposal, ALP itself has not yet clarified its position on the proposed law. 

Nidhi Mehta

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