Australia to resettle mistreated asylum seekers but will not say where
Amnesty International said Labor's stance against the "callous and cruel legislation" was encouraging and asked the government to bring the refugees to Australia for processing and resettlement. (AFP/File)
Australia is set to find a third country to resettle hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers currently being held on Nauru and Manus Island off Papua New Guinea, a minister said Tuesday.
"We have been in negotiations with third countries for a long period of time and we are going to land a deal," Immigration Minister Peter Dutton told reporters in Canberra, without providing a timeline for the resettlement.
He also declined to identify the country in negotiation to send around 1,600 asylum seekers from Africa, the Middle East and Asia that are currently languishing at the two Australia-run detention centres for offshore processing, which were set up in 2013 after the government decided not to process them in Australia.
Last week, local newspaper The Australian reported that the United States and Canada could be among the countries to accept the asylum seekers and refugees.
Also on Tuesday, Dutton introduced a parliamentary bill to banish for life any refugees who arrive by boat. A person banished in this way would be banned from ever visiting Australia, even as a tourist or as the spouse of an Australian.
"This legislation sends a strong message to people smugglers and those considering traveling illegally to Australia by boat that Australia's borders are now stronger than ever," Dutton told the parliament.
He said since European countries closed the door to asylum seekers, they may seek to look for alternative destinations such as Australia.
Many people, including politicians and activists, have vehemently opposed the proposed bill, calling it "cruel" and "ridiculous."
The bill is likely to fail, unless supported by independent senators, since the opposition Labor party said Tuesday they will not support the legislation.
"The idea that a citizen of the United States or Canada or New Zealand faces a lifetime ban preventing them from visiting Australia in 30 or 40 years' time is simply unacceptable," Labor leader Bill Shorten said.
"In many ways the government's latest proposal are a solution looking for the problem."
Amnesty International said Labor's stance against the "callous and cruel legislation" was encouraging and asked the government to bring the refugees to Australia for processing and resettlement.
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