At the time of Crikey’s deadline it looks likely that Scott Morrison’s immigration amendments will pass the Senate. The Immigration Minister wants to reintroduce temporary protection visas and make sweeping changes to the way that refugees are assessed — to the extent that lawyers are concerned many refugees won’t be getting any protection at all, temporary or otherwise.

To get these changes through Parliament, Morrison has offered sweeteners to senators who might be wavering because of concerns about human rights and the flouting of international law.

If the bills don’t pass? The refugees stay locked up.

As former immigration minister under Labor Tony Burke pointed out on Radio National this morning, Morrison appears to be using asylum seekers as political hostages:

“I find it chilling that Scott Morrison is effectively wanting to use people as hostages here. He could’ve started processing. He chose to not do the processing and is now saying unless we vote for his measures, then he’ll continue to keep people in detention.”

The problem is, Labor also “could’ve started processing”. On Burke’s watch, not a single asylum seeker held in the Manus Island detention centre was processed.

Both major political parties have sustained a bizarre obsession with asylum seekers over the past two decades — and both have used humans as political pawns. Now, Clive Palmer, who has either fallen for Morrison’s spin or is being wilfully naive, is helping them make that treatment not only possible but legal under Australian law.

It’s a dark day for Australian politics.

Peter Fray

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