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Australia Moves To Ban Boat Refugees For Life

New laws would strengthen Australia's already controversial immigration policies.

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Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has proposed new laws that would ban any person who attempted to reach Australia by boat after mid-July 2013 from ever setting foot on Australian soil.

Rossbach / AAPIMAGE

There are about 1300 asylum-seekers who made the trip to Australia by boat over the last few years and are now living in island detention centres in Papua New Guinea and Nauru.

According to Turnbull, the new policy is about stopping people smugglers selling boat trips to Australia, and encouraging asylum-seekers who are already in detention to take resettlement deals in third countries or return back to where they came from.

"The door to Australia is closed to those who seek to come here by boat with a people smuggler," Turnbull said on Monday. "It is closed."

Under the new laws, refugees who tried to get to Australia by boat and were then resettled in other countries would not even be allowed to apply for a tourist visa to visit Australia.

Paul Miller / AAPIMAGE

Immigration minister Peter Dutton brushed off concerns the new proposal would breach international law, namely Article 31 of the UN Convention on Refugees, which outlines that signatories "shall not impose penalties, on account of their illegal entry or presence, on refugees".

"Our advice is very clear in relation to the constitutionality... the legal advice was definite and we've been clear about that," Dutton said.

He also suggested the new laws would pave the way for so-called "third country resettlement" deals.

“What we don’t want is if somebody is to go to a third country, that they apply for a tourist visa or some other way to circumvent what the government’s policy is by coming back to Australia from that third country."

It immediately received praise from right-wing MPs, including anti-refugee senator Pauline Hanson, who tweeted that Turnbull was taking his "cues" from her.

Good to see that it looks like the Government is now taking its cues from One Nation. Just like last time. #auspol… https://t.co/AE74bG3lau

Opposition leader Bill Shorten called elements of the plan "ridiculous" but suggested his party needs to look at the legislation before deciding on whether it would vote for the laws.

"It seems ridiculous to me that a genuine refugee who settles in the US or Canada and becomes a US or Canadian citizen is banned from visiting Australia as a tourist, businessman or businesswoman 40 years down the track," Shorten told Fairfax.

"We'll look closely at the legislation when the government can be bothered releasing it."

Mark Di Stefano is a Media and Politics Reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Mark Di Stefano at mark.distefano@buzzfeed.com.

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