Aus seeks permanent ban on Manus Island asylum seekers

7:27 pm on 30 October 2016

The Australian government is to move to ban refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island from ever entering the country, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says.

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

The Coalition will introduce the legislation next month, which will apply to people who arrived by boat from mid-July 2013, even preventing them coming as tourists.

Mr Turnbull said it would send a strong message.

"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.

Mr Turnbull said there had not been a successful attempt by people smugglers to bring irregular maritime arrivals to Australia in more than 800 days.

"If they seek to bring people to Australia those passengers will never settle in this country," he said.

People who were transferred to the Pacific Islands as children will be exempt, and the Immigration Minister will have the discretion to let people in, if it is in the public interest.

Previous Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said in 2013 that no irregular maritime arrival would ever settle in Australia.

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 3000 people on Manus Island, Nauru or in Australia undergoing medical treatment could be affected by the proposed laws.

Refugee lawyer David Manne said Australia should be doing more to protect displaced people and queried why the country needed to be taking even tougher measures.

"It is fundamental that Australia lifts its effort to make a far greater contribution to this global crisis," he said.

"The way to do it is not to propose further measures that are about protecting borders rather than protecting people.

"It's very difficult to see why these measures are seen as necessary to the extent that they may in one way block or provide another block to people getting to Australia," he said.

"They do nothing to resolve what has been widely recognised as an appalling and unsustainable situation for those people left in limbo."

The proposed bill will be introduced in the next parliamentary sitting week.

-ABC / Reuters

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs