SYDNEY – Australia’s government said on Thursday it would introduce legislation to allow ankle bracelets, curfews and other rules to monitor dozens of foreigners with criminal records after a court released them from indefinite immigration detention.
The High Court ruling last week said indefinite immigration detention, pursued by Australia for more than two decades, was unlawful.
The ruling forced the government to release 83 foreigners, which included those convicted for crimes like murder and sexual assault in Australia and overseas, sparking a public and political backlash.
Amid growing political pressure, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s government said it has introduced legislation into parliament that will give it powers to put in place strict new visa restrictions and criminal penalties on these individuals.
“If I had any legal power to do it, I would keep every one of those people in detention,” Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil told reporters.
The new conditions will include the ability to impose ankle monitoring bracelets, the power to impose very strict curfews, and a number of other new conditions, she said.
O’Neil said breaking these visa conditions would lead to jail terms.
“So, for the people who are released from detention … we have a simple message for them. We will set the strictest possible conditions for you. If you do not follow them, you will end up back in jail,” she said.
The released individuals have all served their jail sentences in Australia, but were still being held in detention and not granted a visa because of concerns over their character or potential risks to national security, according to the government.
They can not be sent back to their home country due to fear of prosecution, or because they are stateless.
By attempting to introduce restrictions on people released after years of unlawful detention, the government is substituting one form of punishment for another, said Sanmati Verma, Acting Legal Director at the Human Rights Law Centre.
“Every single day, Australian citizens who have been convicted of an offense re-enter the community after serving their time. For the government to suggest that migrants and refugees in the same position pose a different or greater risk is dangerous dog-whistling,” she said. — Reuters