CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — The Australian government Wednesday rushed legislation through Parliament that could place behind bars some migrants who were freed after the High Court ruled their indefinite detention was unconstitutional.
The House of Representatives voted 68 to 59 on Wednesday night to create so-called community safety orders. The vote came a day after the Senate passed the same legislation.
Immigration Minister Andrew Giles will now be able to apply to a judge to imprison for up to three years migrants with criminal records for violent or sexual offenses because they pose an unacceptable risk to the public.
“We’ve already begun preparations to ensure that we can do all that we can as quickly as we can,” Giles said before the draft legislation became law.
“The preventative detention regime would allow for the court to detain the worst of the worst offenders,” he added.
Giles declined to say how many of 148 migrants freed starting last month who for various reasons can’t be deported might be detained under community safety orders.
Federal law had previously only allowed preventative detention for extremists convicted of terrorism offenses. But state laws allow certain rapists and violent criminals to be detained after their sentences expire.
Amnesty International refugee rights adviser Graham Thom said earlier Wednesday he was alarmed that the government was rushing through the legislation without appropriate parliamentary scrutiny.
“A sensible conversation is needed when balancing community safety with personal liberty. This is not a time for knee jerk responses,” he said.
Adam Bandt, leader of the Greens party, said the laws created a harsher justice system for people are not Australian citizens.
“Some of them have committed heinous crimes, many of them haven’t,” Bandt said, referring to the freed migrants.
The High Court on Nov. 8 ruled the indefinite detention of a stateless Myanmar Rohingya man who had been convicted of raping a 10-year-old boy was unconstitutional.
Government lawyers say the judges left open the option for such migrants to be detained if they pose a public risk. That decision would be made by a judge rather than a government minister.
The ruling said the government could no longer indefinitely detain foreigners who had been refused Australian visas, but could not be deported to their homelands and no third country would accept them.
Most of the 148 who have been released on the basis of the High Court ruling have been ordered to wear ankle tracking bracelets and to stay home during nightly curfews.
Police announced on Wednesday a fourth recently freed migrant had been arrested. The man had been charged with breaking his curfew and stealing luggage from Melbourne’s airport.
Another migrant with a criminal record for violent sexual assault was charged with the indecent assault of a woman. Another was charged with breaching his reporting obligations as a registered sex offender, and a fourth man was charged with drug possession.
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