Australia’s plan to ban re-entry of refugees who arrive by sea at risk

Opposition Labor Party says it will not support legislation to this effect. Conservative Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull earlier announced a proposal to prevent genuine refugees from returning to the country under any circumstances.

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

Australia tried in 2015 to send refugees who arrive by boat to the Philippines which refused on basis of capacity. Australia pays the islands of Nauru and Papua New Guinea to detain them. (May, 2013)

Australia's plan to permanently ban genuine refugees or asylum seekers who arrive by boat from ever re-entering the country was in jeopardy on Tuesday when the opposition Labor Party said it would not support the ban.

On October 30, Australia announced it will be introducing legislation to ban adult refugees who try to reach its shores from ever returning to the country. Thousands who were interned or turned away when they attempted to arrive at Australian shores illegally would be banned for life from the country – as tourists, businessmen and women, and as spouses.

"The idea that a citizen of the United States or Canada or New Zealand faces a lifetime ban preventing them from visiting Australia in 30 or 40 years’ time is simply unacceptable to me and my Labor colleagues," said Australian Labor Party leader Bill Shorten.

Immigration minister Peter Dutton introduced the travel ban bill to parliament on Tuesday but a motion to oppose the legislation passed unanimously.

"You need the clearest of clear messages," Conservative Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told reporters on the weekend. "This is a battle of will between the Australian people, represented by their government, and these criminal gangs of people smugglers. You should not underestimate the scale of the threat," he added.

The unpopular prime minister does not control the upper house Senate and without Labor's support faces the complicated scenario of gaining the backing of eight of the 10 crossbenchers to legislate the ban.

Turnbull is struggling to implement policies without control of the Senate.

On Monday, the Senate rejected a government plan to hold a national vote on whether to allow same-sex marriage. Opponents warned a public vote would be divisive, preferring a parliamentary vote to decide the issue.

At least 48 refugees died near the rocky shores of Christmas Island in Australia in 2010.

Under Australia's tough border security laws, asylum seekers intercepted trying to reach the country by boat are sent for processing at detention camps on Papua New Guinea's Manus island and the tiny South Pacific island nation of Nauru.

Some 1,200 people are currently held in the camps and the ban will apply to the ones detained since July 19, 2013. The ban will not apply to children.

The legality of forever barring people from entering Australia after they have been resettled in a third country, having been officially recognised as refugees, has been questioned by rights lawyers and refugee support groups.

TRTWorld and agencies