Gillard Wins Support for New Immigration Bill

Posted September 12th, 2011 at 12:05 am (UTC-5)
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Australia's governing Labor party agreed Monday to propose legislation that would enable the government to go ahead with a planned refugee swap with Malaysia.

The legislation, approved in a closed meeting of the party's legislators, would amend the nation's immigration law in response to a High Court ruling last month that found the scheme illegal.

The party would still need support from a handful of independent and Green party legislators who give it a one-seat majority in parliament. It was not immediately clear whether the bill would be supported by members of Australia's opposition Liberal party, whose leaders want undocumented asylum seekers sent to a detention facility in Nauru.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard argues that the High Court ruling makes the legality of the Nauru option doubtful, but Liberal party leaders disagree.

Under the so-called “Malaysia solution,” Australia would send 800 undocumented refugees to be detained in Malaysia while their applications for asylum are processed. In return, Australia would accept 4,000 approved refugees from Malaysia.

The High Court found the plan illegal, largely because of Malaysia's failure to ratify international conventions on torture and the treatment of refugees.

Ms. Gillard says the purpose of the plan is to discourage asylum seekers from paying human traffickers to smuggle them to Australia, often in rickety, unseaworthy boats.