SYDNEY: Australia on Thursday extended tough refugee policies to any asylum-seeker who lands on its mainland, allowing them to be banished to remote Nauru or Papua New Guinea for detention.
Until now, the government only had powers to send boatpeople for indefinite detention in the Pacific when they reached its remote offshore territories such as Christmas Island.
The change, which passed parliament Thursday, strips away any advantage asylum-seekers get from reaching the mainland.
“It will ensure asylum-seekers who unlawfully arrive anywhere in Australia by boat without a visa will be subject to the same regional processing arrangements as asylum-seekers who arrive at an excised offshore place,” said Immigration Minister Brendan O’Connor.
Most boats land at or are intercepted near the remote Australian territories of Christmas Island, close to Indonesia’s Java, or the Cocos Islands in the Indian Ocean.
Both are considered to be “excised” from Australia for immigration purposes, which means they are subject to special laws allowing for refugees who land there to be processed in regional centres in the Pacific.
To get around this, boats have increasingly been aiming for the mainland with one packed with 66 asylum-seekers managing to evade detection and reach Geraldton in Western Australia in April.
On Tuesday a boat carrying 42 people was intercepted near Darwin.