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Australia immigration law overhaul prompts racism allegations

[JURIST] Australian Prime Minister John Howard [official profile] was accused Tuesday of yielding to far-right groups who want a "white Australia" after the Australian Senate [official website] passed the Australian Citizenship Bill of 2006 [text] on Monday. Seen as the biggest revision of immigration laws in nearly 60 years, the Citizenship Bill will make it harder to become an Australian citizen [government backgrounder] by increasing the number of years immigrants must spend in Australia [JURIST news archive] from two to four before being eligible for citizenship. The bill also requires a test to evaluate an immigrant's knowledge of English and "Australian values" such as democracy, the rule of law and the equality of men and women. Amendments [text] to the bill passed by the Senate will now be referred back to the House of Representatives [official website] for consideration.

Australian Democrats [party website] parliamentary leader Sen. Lyn Allison [official profile] said the new legislation is a way for the prime minister to demonize immigrants and that many potential citizens will be put off by the tests for language and values. While some changes are in response to concerns over "home-grown" terrorism after the London train and bus bombings [JURIST news archive] in July 2005 carried out by British Muslims, Howard has denied that the citizenship tests target Muslims. He has also, however, expressed fears that Muslims who are not integrated into Australian society could launch terror attacks in the country. AFP has more.

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