26 April 2011

Australian immigration changes criticised by opposition

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The Australian government's proposed changes to its immigration policy have been under attack by both the Coalition and the Greens, who have claimed that the government's changes will bring back "the exact regime they've denounced".

Australian immigration

The Australian government has proposed tough changes to its immigration policy, though these have been criticised by opposition parties.

The planned changes have been announced as a response to the upsurge in Australian immigration detention centre violence, which made headlines last week as rioting asylum seekers burnt down a Sydney detention centre's buildings.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen says the Australian government wants to send a clear message that "this sort of behaviour does threaten the chance of getting a permanent visa", and that they will seek to amend the Migration Act to implement a tougher approach to any asylum seeker who commits an offence while in detention.

Minister Bowen added the following: "These changes make it much easier and more possible for the minister and the Department to deny them a permanent visa and to make the situation very clear that we will be pursuing options other than a permanent visa."

However, in order to have the amendments made, the Government will need the support of either the Opposition part (the Coalition of the Liberals and the Nationals) or a combination of the Greens and Independents.

Speaking on the Government's proposal, the Opposition's immigration spokesperson, Scott Morrison, said: "If the Minister believes there's a problem with the Act then what I'll be asking for him to do is to lay out to us his legal advice which shows that he is currently constrained in using the powers that are there. He needs to make his case for the change."

The Greens immigration spokesperson, Sarah Hanson Young, was even more disparaging, accusing Minister Bowen of using it as an excuse to step backwards: "Simply pushing for further toughening of the system is his excuse, the Labor Party's excuse, to bring back Temporary Protection Visas - the exact regime that they've denounced."

However, Minister Bowen defended his position, stating that the plan was not to just bring back Temporary Protection Visas, but instead make a "range of potential visas available" so asylum seekers would know that "you have an incentive to know that if you are a genuine refugee, who has conducted themselves according to law....then you would be granted a permanent visa." 

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people lodge their Australian visa application with the Australian High Commission

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