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Pacific News Minute: Australian Government Proposes Even Tougher Immigration law

Hector Garcia / Flickr
Hector Garcia / Flickr

 In Canberra, this week, Australia's parliament is considering a new law to make the country's controversial immigration laws even tougher. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull proposes to ban asylum seekers in off shore detention camps from Australia, for life. We have more from Neal Conan in the Pacific News Minute.


"You need the clearest of clear messages," Prime Minister Turnbull said on Sunday. Successive Australian governments have refused entry to migrants who arrive on boats for six years now.  Prime Minister Turnbull says the policy prevents deaths at sea, and deters people smugglers; " The worst criminals imaginable," he said. "It is a battle of will."  

But critics say the policy punishes asylum seekers. Australia's navy diverts them to Australian run camps on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea, or in the island nation of Nauru. Almost three thousand live there now, mostly Afghans and Iranians,  some for more than three years, in legal limbo and in conditions that human rights advocates describe as open air prisons.

Immigration minister Peter Dutton said the law would put an end to what he called the false hope spread by advocates who tell migrants they will eventually make it to Australia. The law would also block any asylum seeker who marries an Australian citizen and seeks entry as a spouse. 

Australia offers to return migrants to their home countries; those who qualify as refugees can resettle in Papua New Guinea, Nauru, or Cambodia. But even if they do, under the new law, they will never be allowed to visit Australia as tourists. The ban would not apply to children.

Australia's biggest opposition party, Labour, is divided on the proposal. Richard DiNatale, leader if the Greens party, called it "barbaric, cruel, shameful, cynical politics."

Over 36 years with National Public Radio, Neal Conan worked as a correspondent based in New York, Washington, and London; covered wars in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; Olympic Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo; and a presidential impeachment. He served, at various times, as editor, producer, and executive producer of All Things Considered and may be best known as the long-time host of Talk of the Nation. Now a macadamia nut farmer on Hawaiʻi Island, his "Pacific News Minute" can be heard on HPR Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
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