New rules for asylum-seekers in Australia
17 December 2013, 12:00
Sydney - Asylum-seekers living in Australia face having their welfare payments cut, visas cancelled or being placed in detention if they breach a new code of conduct forbidding anti-social behaviour that sparked condemnation on Tuesday.
The code, which came into force on Saturday and applies to those on bridging visas, contains a list of expected behaviour for living in Australia - including that applicants obey all laws, including road rules.
It says visa holders must co-operate with all reasonable requests from the government about their visa status, including to attend interviews, and obey any health direction issued by the immigration department's chief medical officer.
In addition, they cannot "harass, intimidate or bully" anyone or engage in "any anti-social or disruptive activities that are inconsiderate, disrespectful or threaten the peaceful enjoyment of other members of the community".
Earlier this year Scott Morrison, who was then an opposition politician but is now immigration minister, called for "behaviour protocols" for asylum-seekers after a Sri Lankan man was charged with sexual assault.
"If you are found to have breached the code of behaviour, you could have your income support reduced, or your visa may be cancelled," the code states.
"If your visa is cancelled, you will be returned to immigration detention and may be transferred to an offshore processing centre."
New code criticised
Australia opened offshore processing centres in Papua New Guinea and the small state of Nauru last year in a bid to stem the arrival of the would-be refugees, drawing sharp criticism from rights groups.
The new code, which states people must not become involved in criminal behaviour in Australia, deliberately damage property, give false identity documents or lie to a government official, has been criticised by the Australian Greens.
"This is clear discrimination against a specific group of people and it needs to be called out for what it is," Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said.
"Having one set of rules for some people and a different set of rules for others offends the very ideals of a fair and decent democratic society."
But in an explanatory statement, the government said it had become increasingly concerned about non-citizens who engaged in conduct that is not in line with the expectations of the Australian community.
It said the regulation imposing the code was compatible with human rights and limitations were "reasonable, necessary and proportionate".