31 Oct 2016

Australia 'turning its back on refugees'

5:54 pm on 31 October 2016

The Australian government is being accused of turning its back on refugees as it plans to introduce legislation to ban asylum seekers who arrive by boat from ever being allowed into the country.

The new law would be retrospective and would cover asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru and also some who have already left the islands to settle in places like Cambodia.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull addresses party faithful on election night.

The Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says passengers brought to Australia by people smugglers will never settle in the country. Photo: AFP

The Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said it will send a strong message to the people smugglers.

But Australian barrister and refugee advocate, Julian Burnside, told Morning Report most of those affected are genuine refugees who have been fleeing for their lives.

Protesters call for immigration detention centers on Nauru and Manus Island to close in Melbourne, in August 2016.

Protesters call for immigration detention centers on Nauru and Manus Island to close in Melbourne, in August 2016. Photo: AFP

He said Australia has turned its back on them and the proposed law is cruel.

"What the government is overlooking is the harshness of a law like this," he said.

"You know there are people on Manus who have their wife and children living in Australia on protection visas. Those people will be forbidden ever to see their families again."

The Australia Human Rights Law Centre said its terrifying news for family members already in the country.

Its Director of Legal Advocacy, Daniel Webb, represents many of the families currently in Australia for medical treatment but face return to Nauru.

He said about 40 babies have been born in Australia, have taken their first steps and spoken their first words in Australian communities.

The women who have been sexually assaulted on Nauru, who are traumatised and just starting to rebuild their lives after being brought to Australia for treatment, will be also terrified by the statement said Mr Webb.

The Refugee Action Coalition said the Australian Government is grandstanding.

The Coalition's Ian Rintoul said it is a desperate headline-grabbing announcement that is attempting to pre-empt a looming PNG Supreme Court action that seeks orders for the asylum seekers and refugees on Manus Island to be returned to Australia.

The PNG legal action seeking compensation for human rights breaches and an order to return the Manus detainees was dismissed on a technicality last week.

But he said that already over 600 detainees on Manus Island had signed court applications to ensure the court action can be resumed, perhaps as early as December.

Amnesty International Australia's refugee campaigner, Ming Yu Hah, said the Australian Government has falsely presented this new legislation as necessary to close off 'backdoor' entry to Australia.

She said Canberra is discriminating against people seeking safety based on their mode of arrival, which is in clear breach of Australia's obligations under international law.

The Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said the policy would not apply to anyone who was under the age of 18 on the date they arrived at either Manus Island, Nauru or any other country designated as a regional processing country.

Up to 3,000 people on Manus Island, Nauru or in Australia undergoing medical treatment could be affected by the proposed laws which will be introduced in the next parliamentary sitting week.

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