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New legislation next step in fighting people smuggling.

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New Legislation Next Step in Fighting People Smuggling MPS 16/2002

Legislation passed by Parliament this afternoon was the next step in the Government's fight against people smuggling, the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, Philip Ruddock, said today.

Mr Ruddock said the new legislation is a fair and equitable way of dealing with failed asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus, Papua New Guinea who might be brought to Australia while arrangements are made for their further travel.

Under the legislation, failed asylum seekers transiting Australia will be held in detention while arrangements are made for their continued journey. Most should only be here for transit or for a short period of time.

If they cooperate with efforts to return them and are still in detention after a continuous period of six months they will be able to request the Refugee Review Tribunal (RRT) for an assessment of their case.

If the RRT assessed that there were grounds for concern then the Minister had the power to allow them to apply for a substantive visa.

Mr Ruddock said the legislation built on a comprehensive strategy that had clearly been effective in thwarting the attempts of people smugglers to get people into Australia.

"There have been no boat arrivals for over four months. This is in stark contrast to the two preceding years when 19 boats were processed in the three month period to January 2001 and 29 boats were processed in the same three month period to January 2000," Mr Ruddock said.

"This success has been based on a wide ranging strategy. Physically disrupting the work of people smugglers and only providing temporary protection for unauthorised arrivals is working.

"We are also taking a leading role in regional cooperation on people smuggling and we have tightened legislation to prevent excessive judicial review.

"Operating processing centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea has reinforced our message to the people smugglers and those who may have contemplated using their services."

The Pacific Strategy was introduced last year to deal with people being smuggled into Australia many of

whom had been living in countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Iran and Jordan.

People were taken to Nauru and Manus where their applications for protection are being assessed under the UNHCR guidelines. The results of these applications should be announced shortly.

Mr Ruddock said the Labor Party's support for the legislation meant the Opposition had finally recognised that the Government's multi-faceted approach to stopping people smugglers had been successful.

"At last the ALP has realised that it needs to take a more constructive approach to stopping people smuggling if Australia is to avoid the problems like those experienced by Italy this week when one thousand boat people arrived," the Minister said.

"By stopping unauthorised arrivals Australia will be able to take more people living in desperate conditions in refugee camps in regions such as Africa."

21 March 2002

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