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Australia House set to approve border bill limiting asylum seekers to offshore camps

[JURIST] A bill that would require asylum seekers arriving in Australia [JURIST news archive] by boat to be processed in offshore camps is expected to be approved by the country's House of Representatives [official website] Thursday, despite opposition from within the governing Liberal Party [party website]. Prime Minister John Howard [official profile] contends that the restrictions on immigration [JURIST news archive] protect Australia's borders, while critics accuse him of catering to Indonesia [JURIST news archive], which temporarily recalled its ambassador to Canberra after Australia gave visas to more than 40 Indonesian asylum seekers [BBC report] from Indonesia's Papua province earlier this year. Responding to reporters' questions Wednesday, Howard said [official transcript]:

A lot of changes have been made to accommodate the concerns of some colleagues, but in the end, as happens in any democratic party, the overwhelming majority view must be respected, and that is why we are going ahead with the legislation. The Australian public wants strong, border protection legislation, that is what this is all about, and that is why the Government is going ahead with the legislation.
During Wednesday's debate in the House [ABC Radio report], one Liberal Party member, Petro Georgiou [official profile], described the Migration Amendment (Designated Unauthorised Arrivals) Bill [parliamentary materials and text] as "the most profoundly disturbing piece of legislation I've encountered since becoming a Member of Parliament."

Nevertheless, the bill is likely to advance to the Senate [official website], where a vote is scheduled for next week. The Liberal Party has a one-vote majority in the upper chamber. BBC News has more. The Sydney Morning Herald has local coverage.

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