[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 August 2006, 06:02 GMT 07:02 UK
Australia debates asylum changes
John Howard
John Howard said he had already made concessions on the bill
The Australian Parliament has begun debating controversial proposals to process all future asylum seekers arriving by boat in off-shore camps.

Prime Minister John Howard said the Australian people wanted strong border protection.

But the opposition accused him of using the legislation to appease Indonesia.

Earlier this year Australia's decision to accept more than 40 asylum seekers from the Indonesian province of Papua caused a diplomatic rift with Jakarta.

Indonesia temporarily withdrew its ambassador to Australia in protest, claiming that its southern neighbour was interfering with Indonesian domestic affairs.

Tough rules

Currently, only people who arrive on outlying islands or are intercepted at sea have their claims for Australian asylum processed off-shore.

Protestors outside the Australian embassy in Jakarta on 5 April
Australia angered Jakarta by accepting Papuan refugees
Those arriving on the mainland have their cases handled inside the country, under the Australian legal process.

If passed, this new proposal would mean that all arrivals by boat would be sent off-shore, to places such as on the island state of Nauru.

Even if they are found to be genuine refugees, they could still be refused asylum. Mr Howard faces stiff opposition to this bill, and has already made several concessions, but on Wednesday he was not in the mood to back down further.

"A lot of changes have been made to accommodate the concerns of some colleagues, but in the end, as happens in any democratic party, the overwhelming majority view must be respected," he is quoted as saying by the French news agency AFP.

But several members Australia's governing coalition have said they will join with the opposition to vote against the new bill.

Ruling party member Petro Georgiou told reporters that the bill was "the most profoundly disturbing piece of legislation I have encountered since becoming a member of parliament".

He told the Associated Press that parliament was now being asked to take a "severely regressive measure".

But the opposition of a few ruling party members is unlikely to prevent the bill from passing in the lower chamber, because Mr Howard has a comfortable majority.

Indonesians protest Papuan visas
27 Mar 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Indonesia recalls Australia envoy
24 Mar 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Mine hits deep seam of Papua unrest
23 Mar 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Papua refugees get Australia visa
23 Mar 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Report highlights abuses in Papua
18 Aug 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Indonesia flashpoints: Papua
28 Jun 04 |  Asia-Pacific

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific