New immigration laws would make it easier to deport non-citizens

The Federal Government has introduced laws making it easier for authorities to deport non-citizens and expand the immigration minister's powers.
New immigration laws would make it easier to deport non-citizens

The Federal Government has introduced new immigration laws to make it easier for authorities to deport migrants.

Under the draft law, the Immigration Minister could force non-citizens to comply with efforts to remove them from Australia, or otherwise face up to five years in jail.

The bill was expected to rush through the Senate. It is now being delayed so it can go through a “proper inquiry“.


The legislation comes ahead of a ruling in the High Court, where a man from Iran is refusing to be deported due to fear of persecution.

The man, known as ‘ASF17’, has been held in immigration detention for more than 10 years. He fears persecution because he is bisexual and sexual intercourse between men in Iran can lead to the death penalty. He also claims to be Christian, a minority religious group in Iran.

The Government’s lawyers allege ASF17 hasn’t cooperated with their efforts to deport him.

The court dismissed his appeal, but his lawyers are escalating the case to the High Court on 17 April.

The High Court will now rule whether the Iranian man should be released from immigration detention. It’s a similar circumstance to its ruling last year that found indefinite detention is unlawful.

While no decision has been made, the Government is trying to stop the release of ASF17 and people in similar circumstances ahead of the High Court ruling.

Immigration laws

A spokesperson for the Immigration Minister announced yesterday morning that Labor was bringing in these laws to “strengthen” the immigration system. It said the legilsation was about “providing extra tools to deport individuals from Australia”.

If the new legislation is passed, it would become a crime for foreign nationals to not cooperate with deportation.

It would mean that “subjectively held fears” – including concerns about persecution in someone’s home country – won’t be considered a valid reason for failing to comply.

The change to the Migration Act would give the Immigration Minister powers to “do specified things necessary” to remove non-citizens from Australia.

Failing to comply with the Minister’s orders could carry between one and five years in jail. Additionally, it could attract nearly $94,000 in fines.

Home Affairs officials said it could affect between 150 to 200 people held in immigration detention refusing to be deported.

“Concern country”

The bill also allows the Immigration Minister to identify a “concern country” and block visa applications from that country.

The Minister would need to choose the “concern country” in consultation with the Foreign Minister and Prime Minister. The Minister would then provide a statement to Parliament laying out their reasons for choosing the country.

There are some exceptions to the rule, including for people who are spouses or dependent children of Australian citizens.


Early yesterday, the Government presented the legislation to members of Parliament. It was quickly passed through the lower house with the support of the Coalition.

However, the Coalition’s Immigration spokesperson Dan Tehan criticised the Government’s “rushed” and “chaotic” process of getting the legislation through Parliament.

Today, Tehan has indicated the bill will face a lengthier inquiry, meaning it could take weeks for the legislation to pass through the Senate.


The Greens and several independent MPs voted against the changes.

Greens leader Adam Bandt accused the Government of “trying to outflank the Coalition in a race to the bottom on immigration”, saying the laws would “whip up attacks on migrants and more racism in our community”.

Independent MP Zoe Daniel said the bill is “kneejerk legislation” that “criminalises refugees who’ve already been through a broken system”.

A group of asylum seeker and human rights lawyers from activist organisations have fiercely opposed the Government’s changes.

In a statement, the organisations said: “The legislation will confront people fleeing persecution, torture and death with a perilous choice: return to a place where they may be harmed or killed, or be detained in prison for refusing to comply with removal.”

The Human Rights Law Centre said the Immigration Minister would be given “god-like” powers to stop people from certain countries applying for visas to come to Australia. It described the move as “dangerous” and “unjustified”.

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