Australia’s policies on asylum seekers have proven controversial

Australia has unveiled tough new plans to bar any asylum seekers who try to reach the country by boat from ever being able to enter the country.

The lifetime ban on visas would apply even to those travelling as tourists, for business, or who married an Australian.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the move would send "the strongest possible signal" to people-smugglers.

The proposed ban is to be put to parliament later this week.

Australia transports asylum seekers who arrive by boat to off-shore processing centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island.

Even if found to be genuine refugees, they are already blocked from being resettled in Australia. They can either return home, be resettled on Manus or Nauru, or go to a third country.

‘Battle of will’

The new legislation would apply to all those sent to Nauru and Manus from 19 July 2013, including those who have returned home, and anyone who arrives in the future. Children, however, would be exempt.

"This is a battle of will between the Australian people, represented by its government, and the criminal gangs of people-smugglers," Mr Turnbull said.

Conditions in the detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru have come in for criticism

"You should not underestimate the scale of the threat. These people-smugglers are the worst criminals imaginable. They have a multibillion-dollar business. We have to be very determined to say no to their criminal plans."

He added: "If they seek to bring people to Australia those passengers will never settle in this country."

The law will directly affect about 3,000 adult refugees being housed on Manus, Nauru or in Australia undergoing medical treatment.

Australia’s Labor opposition says it is yet to decide whether to back the new law.

Australia has been repeatedly criticised for its tough policy on refugees and asylum seekers.

Earlier this month, a report by Amnesty International compared its camp on Nauru to an open-air prison.

Mr Turnbull dismissed the report’s findings as "absolutely false".

Australia and asylum

  • The number of asylum seekers travelling to Australia by boat rose sharply in 2012 and early 2013. Scores of people have died making the journey.
  • To stop the influx, the government adopted tough measures intended as a deterrent.
  • Everyone who arrives is detained. Under the policy, asylum seekers are processed offshore at centres on Nauru and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.
  • The government has also adopted a policy of tow-backs, or turning boats around.