Tougher character test to send clear message
Tuesday, 26 April 2011
The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen MP, will introduce a range of measures to strengthen the consequences of inappropriate and criminal behaviour in immigration detention.
Mr Bowen announced today that he will introduce amendments to the Migration Act, including a new provision to toughen the character test.
'These changes will remove any doubt around the character test and send a strong and clear message that the kind of unacceptable behaviour we saw recently at the Christmas Island and Villawood detention centres will not be tolerated,' Mr Bowen said.
'The government believes the powers under the Migration Act can be strengthened to create a more significant disincentive for this sort of destructive behaviour.'
Under the proposed changes, the Migration Act will be amended so that:
- A person would fail the character test should they be convicted of any offence committed while in immigration detention; and
- The maximum penalty for the manufacture, possession, use or distribution of weapons by immigration detainees will increase from three to five years' imprisonment.
'These changes send a clear message to anyone considering engaging in unacceptable behaviour in immigration detention that this will only increase their chances of not being granted a visa,' Mr Bowen said.
'This will apply to all people in immigration detention: onshore and offshore arrivals, asylum seekers, or otherwise.'
Mr Bowen said that, subject to natural justice, he intended to use the full extent of his powers to prevent people who have been involved in criminal, violent or destructive behaviour, from being allowed to apply for a permanent protection visa.
These powers include only granting refugees provisional visas, which do not permit family reunion and may be cancelled where they no longer require protection.
'As I have said all along, people's visa claims are addressed on a case by case basis, and allowing for the ongoing criminal investigations, I have committed to looking at these very closely and will respond accordingly,' he said.
The government will seek to introduce the changes during the next session of Parliament. Subject to passage of the legislation, the character test amendments will take effect from today.
Last update: Friday, 29 April 2011 at 13:03 AEST