14 Jun 2006

Australian government struggles to tighten asylum law

7:39 pm on 14 June 2006

The Australian government's plans to extend its processing of asylum seekers using offshore detention centres like on Nauru have been dealt a blow.

A government-dominated Senate committee has recommended the legislation be scrapped and backbenchers are threatening to vote against it in Parliament unless it is modified.

The Senate recommendations were concerned about the legislation's compatibility with international and domestic law, and with retaining basic protections for the detainees.

The government legislation followed outrage from Indonesia after the Immigration Department gave temporary protection visas to 42 Papuan asylum seekers this year.

The Refugee Council of Australia President John Gibson says the government should withdraw the Bill.

"If this bill were not to be passed and a similar boatload of people were to arrive on the Australian mainland, they would be dealt with just like the 42 Papuans were dealt with - within the Australian domestic system, with full representation: proper health care and support and access to judicial review and settlement in Australia. But obviously, if the Bill were to go through, even in amended form, it would of necessity involve the offshore processing and - it seems - the government is committed to Nauru."

Refugee Council President, John Gibson