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The United Nations says it is “profoundly concerned” about the Coalition's proposed lifetime ban on refugees returning to Australia, moves which Malcolm Turnbull has defended as necessary to protect humanity.
A day after Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Labor would consider the proposal, United Nations High Commission on Refugees regional representative Thomas Albrecht said Australia should offer protection and respect to people arriving by boat.
“The basic human right of every person to seek asylum from persecution is not diminished by their mode of arrival,” Albrecht said on Tuesday.
“Those forced to flee persecution need and deserve conducive conditions of protection, and a sustainable long-term solution.”
UN special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants Franois Crpeau will meet government officials this week, as the UNHCR called for asylum seekers to have their claims processed in the territory where they seek protection.
The organisation has argued Australia retains responsibility for refugees and asylum seekers, even where they are transferred to Manus Island or Nauru under agreements with foreign governments.
Speaking on Adelaide radio, Turnbull rejected claims from One Nation leader Pauline Hanson that refugees were not welcome in Australia, because many were economic refugees seeking generous welfare.
He said Australia should decide which refugees settle in the community.
“I disagree with her proposition that we should not welcome refugees to Australia,” Turnbull said.
“The reason we are able to have such a generous humanitarian program and are able to integrate and settle refugees well in Australia, in contrast to other countries, is because we decide which refugees come to Australia and we are able to manage the integrity of our borders.”
Turnbull said he had begged former prime minister Kevin Rudd not to unpick the Howard government's immigration regime when opposition leader in 2009, arguing boat arrivals under the former Labor government had proved him right.
“I begged him not to,” Turnbull said.
“I said at the time that this would result in an increase in people smuggling and irregular maritime arrivals and I take no joy in this at all; I was right and he was wrong.
“This is an issue of humanity. If we wish to stop people drowning at sea, if we wish to put the people smugglers out of business, if we wish to maintain one of the most generous humanitarian refugee programs in the world, we must maintain the integrity of our borders.”
Shorten said it seemed ridiculous that genuine refugees who settle in the United States or Canada could be banned as citizen from visiting Australia as a tourist, or on business.
The government is working with crossbench senators ahead of the legislation being introduced to Parliament this month.
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