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Australian asylum law faces tight vote in Senate

[JURIST] The Australian government's proposed Migration Amendment (Designated Unauthorised Arrivals) Bill [PDF text] that would require asylum seekers arriving by boat to be processed at offshore camps faces a close vote in the Senate [official website] this week, Australian media reported Sunday. The bill passed [JURIST report] the Australian House of Representatives [official website] on Thursday by a margin of 78-62. The Liberal party government of Prime Minister John Howard [official website] only holds a one-vote majority in the Senate, however, meaning that if one government senator opposes the bill, or if two abstain from the vote, the proposal will fail. Family First [party website] Senator Steve Fielding [official profile] indicated that he will vote against the bill, while it remains unclear how three key Liberal Party [official website] Senators will vote. Opponents of the bill condemn Howard for catering to Indonesia in order resolve a diplomatic discord between the two countries that arose after Australia granted visas to more than 40 Indonesian asylum seekers [BBC report] from Indonesia's Papua province earlier this year.

Under current law, asylum cases are handled within mainland Australia, but the new law will divert most asylum seekers to a processing facility on the small island nation of Nauru [Wikipedia backgrounder]. AFX has more. The Melbourne Age local coverage.

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