by Gareth Hutchens (TheGuardian) The Turnbull government plans to ban asylum seekers who arrive by boat from ever being allowed into Australia.
The ban will apply to any adult who has been sent to detention centres on Nauru or Manus Island since 19 July, 2013.
It means adults who have previously tried to enter Australia by boat since July 2013, but who have chosen to return home, will never be allowed to get a visa to Australia – even as a tourist.
The government plans to backdate its ban to 19 July, 2013, because that is when former prime minister Kevin Rudd said: “As of today, asylum seekers who come here by boat without a visa will never be settled in Australia.”
The ban will not apply to children.
Malcolm Turnbull announced the plan on Sunday during a joint press conference with the immigration minister, Peter Dutton.
He said the law change was necessary to support key government border protection policies, including temporary protection visas, regional processing and boat turnbacks.
He said it would send the “strongest possible signal” to those who are trying to persuade asylum seekers currently on Nauru and Manus Island that Australia’s government would eventually change its policy and allow them to settle in Australia.
He said this was a “battle of will” against criminal people smugglers, and Australians “should not underestimate the scale of the threat.”
“These people smugglers are the worst criminals imaginable,” Turnbull said.
“They have a multibillion-dollar business. It is a battle of will. We have to be very determined to say no to their criminal plans.”
The government plans to amend the 1958 Migration Act to achieve its goal when parliament sits next week.
Turnbull said he expected Labor’s support for the legislation, given it was “entirely consistent with the party’s stated public position” from 19 July, 2013.
“Mr Shorten now has the opportunity to express clear, unequivocal support for this very strong statement of long standing Coalition, and so far as we understand opposition, policy,” he said.
“They must know that the door to Australia is closed to those who seek to come here by boat with a people smuggler: it is closed.
“We accept thousands of refugees and we do so willingly. But we will not tolerate any repeat of the people smuggling ventures which resulted in over 1,200 deaths at sea under the Labor party, and 50,000 unauthorised arrivals.”
The Greens criticised the announcement, saying the Turnbull government had “sunk to a new low” in its “latest attempt to punish innocent people seeking asylum.”
“The proposed new laws are an escalation of the cynical race to the bottom, which sees our fellow human beings again used as a tool to seek domestic political advantage,” Greens immigration spokesman, Senator Nick McKim, said.
“This is about absorbing nothing more than One Nation votes. As Amnesty International recently made plain, the mistreatment of people for a political purpose is torture.
“It runs contrary to international law and our obligations under the refugee convention.”