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Asylum-seekers arriving in Australia by boat from Indonesia and found to be genuine refugees would only get temporary visas and would not be joined by their families if Tony Abbott's conservative coalition forms the government after the September 7 parliamentary election.
“This is our country and we determine who comes here,” Abbott said on Friday when unveiling an immigration policy that matched the severity of Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's.
Rudd has pledged to banish all asylum-seekers arriving by boat to offshore detention centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea. Those assessed as genuine refugees would be resettled in Papua New Guinea and those whose claims were rejected would be held there in detention indefinitely.
Since 2008, almost 50 000 asylum-seekers have arrived by boat and more than 1 000 have drowned when their flimsy craft failed to make the 360km journey from the coast of Java to Australia's Christmas Island outpost.
Abbott said the coalition's policy would be retrospective, meaning the 32 000 asylum-seekers in Australian detention awaiting the outcome of their claims could only get a three-year temporary protection visa that would not carry family reunion rights and would not allow re-entry if the holder left Australia.
Abbott's conservatives, who are ahead in the opinion polls, also pledged to scrap a judicial appeals process under which most of those initially denied refugee status eventually receive it through the courts.
Abbott also said that asylum-seekers who discard their passports and other identification papers when they are about to be picked up by Australian navy vessels - as over 80 percent now do - would have that action held against them in the determination of their asylum claims.
“If you want to stop the boats, you've got to change the government,” Abbott said. “And if you can't stop the boats, you're not capable of governing this country.”
Border protection is a crucial election campaign issue. - Sapa-dpa