Australian immigration minister plans to toughen asylum seekers character test

12:43, April 26, 2011      

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Australian Immigration Minister Chris Bowen on Tuesday said he plans to introduce tougher laws for asylum seekers who are involved in violent protests while in immigration detention.

Unrest has flared at several detention centers in recent months, with buildings burnt down at Sydney's Villawood center during a riot last week.

Bowen said under the proposed changes, the Migration Act would be amended to specify that a person fails the character test should he or she be convicted of any offense committed while in immigration detention.

As well, the maximum penalty for the manufacture, possession, use or distribution of weapons by immigration detainees will increase from three to five years jail.

The government plans to backdate these proposed amendments to April 26, meaning those involved in recent uprisings at detention centers, but are yet to be charged, would face the new character test.

Bowen said the change would send a clear message that anyone engaging in unacceptable conduct would be denied a protection visa.

"These changes send a clear message to anyone considering engaging in unacceptable behavior in immigration detention that this will only increase their chances of not being granted a visa, " he said in a statement released on Tuesday.
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