Australia’s opposition leader, Tony Abbott, has announced a new hard-line policy on asylum-seekers – trumping even the recent crackdown by the country’s Labor government, which is now sending all “boat people” to remote Nauru and Papua New Guinea for processing and resettlement.
Mr Abbott’s new policy focuses on the 32,000 people who arrived before the “PNG Solution” was announced, and who are currently in Australia or offshore, awaiting processing of their asylum claims. If his conservative coalition wins an election three weeks today, they will be denied the right to permanently settle in the country, or to bring their families over, even if deemed genuine refugees.
Instead, they will be placed on three-year “temporary protection visas” and forced to take part in an indefinite “work for the dole” programme. Those whose asylum claims are rejected will be stripped of the right to appeal, and deported.
“This is our country, and we determine who comes here,” said Mr Abbott. The denial of the right to appeal, in particular, is likely to be subjected to a legal challenge. David Manne, a refugee lawyer who has successfully challenged past government policy, told ABC television that the new policy would breach Australia’s obligations under the UN refugee convention.
“It’s profoundly concerning, and likely to seriously violate certain rights that should be afforded,” he said. Other refugee advocates said Australia would be the only country in the developed world to deny asylum-seekers the right to appeal.