Australia has introduced a controversial immigration law giving refugees and asylum seekers only temporary visas which won’t allow them to make Australia their permanent home.
In a bid to get senators to vote for the legislation, the immigration minister promised to release detained child asylum seekers if the law was passed. This drew criticism that children were being used a political bargaining tool.
Australian Green Party Senator Sarah Hanson-Young told parliament: “I am appalled. Many people in this country tonight would be appalled. Using children as hostages is never okay, and only a sociopath would do it.”
The government says it is determined to send out a message that refugees arriving by boat are not welcome in Australia.
“By passing this bill, not only the government has sent another strong message to the people-smugglers about our resolve to end their business forever, but it has sent a strong message of resolve from the Australian parliament and that is something that will only further strengthen our country’s borders,” Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said.
Asylum seekers that secure refugee status can still be deported from Australia after three years. Australia also has a deal with Cambodia and Papua New Guinea where it pays to resettle refugees in those countries.
The UN published a report last month saying Australia’s policies on asylum seekers contravened the UN Convention Against Torture.