The Liberal government is aiming to pass into law within days legislation aiming to help hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankans trapped in camps after a brutal civil war.
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The news comes as hundreds of asylum seekers face deportation from Australia under the government’s controversial border protection regime.
The Australian government and Sri Lanka have extended a deadline to refugees in Manus Island detention centre to decide whether to apply for a permanent protection visa. It was originally set to close on 5 April but Australia released those in the centre and allowed asylum seekers to stay in Papua New Guinea for a further six months. However, over the weekend, the Papua New Guinea government turned down a request from Australia to extend the deadline.
Leaked documents published by the Guardian last week showed that many within the government believed there had been no official proof that more than 100 men on Manus Island had been involved in an attack on detainees last month, when Sri Lankan police allegedly beat the asylum seekers with batons and fired rubber bullets at them.
The situation remains tense on Manus Island. Australia is overseeing security on the island and is believed to be prepared to eject asylum seekers from Manus Island at the first sign of unrest or other trouble.
This week is potentially critical for the government, with members of parliament set to return to parliament on Monday to discuss future plans to stop Malaysia taking asylum seekers.
There are several recent revelations surrounding Australia’s offshore policy, which returns asylum seekers who come by boat to island camps on the Pacific region. Last week the prime minister, Scott Morrison, stated he would seek a new parliamentary vote to continue sending asylum seekers to Malaysia.
Morrison also made multiple examples of people who have been granted settlement by Malaysia under the first Malaysia people-swap arrangement, which the government has championed with Indonesia and Malaysia. It stipulates that once they are settled, those who can prove a valid claim will be allowed to remain in Malaysia while people who can prove “no legitimate basis” for refugee status, will be sent back to Indonesia. In return, the government insists that those who arrive by boat can eventually be resettled on Australian soil.
The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is currently investigating recent conditions in the island camps. “The government must urgently investigate and effectively respond to the horrific and distressing welfare and protection conditions faced by the refugees living in the offshore processing regime,” its interim report states.
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The Associated Press reported this week that the refugee status of one asylum seeker, who has reportedly been held on Manus Island for more than three years, has been revoked by both Indonesia and Malaysia.
The Abrat.gov released documents on Monday that show the asylum seeker had changed his mind about refugee status and changed his name, because he is now a security risk.
The latest batch of leaked documents released by the Guardian reveals the risk of growing conflict in Sri Lanka and the prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, being forced out of office.