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Australia House approves bill restricting asylum seekers arriving by boat

[JURIST] The Australian House of Representatives [official website] approved the Migration Amendment (Designated Unauthorised Arrivals) Bill [PDF text] by a margin of 78-62 Thursday, a bill that will require asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat to be processed in offshore camps. As expected [JURIST report], the bill passed despite opposition from four MPs within the governing Liberal Party [party website]. Three members of the governing party led by Australian Prime Minister John Howard [official website] voted against the legislation, and one abstained, calling the legislation "profoundly disturbing." Critics of the bill condemn Howard for catering to Indonesia to resolve a diplomatic dispute between the two countries that arose after Australia gave visas to more than 40 Indonesian asylum seekers [BBC report] from Indonesia's Papua province earlier this year.

Under the current law, asylum seekers have their cases handled within mainland Australia, but the new law will divert most asylum seekers to a small island nation near the Equator called Nauru [Wikipedia backgrounder]. The legislation now moves onto the Senate, where the governing party faces a weak one-vote majority. The Senate will likely vote on the bill next week. VOA has more. The Australian has local coverage.

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