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Australia Seeks Lifetime Ban on Boat People

FILE - Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull addresses party supporters during a rally in Sydney, July 3, 2016.

Australia's parliament is set to vote next week on a plan that would ban any refugees who arrive in the country by boat from ever obtaining a visa to live there, or even visit, or establish a business.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the lifetime ban is being enacted to deter smugglers who bring the migrants to Australia. "This is a battle of will between the Australian people, represented by its government, and the criminal gangs of people smugglers," Turnbull said Sunday.

However, while the proposed legislation is supposedly aimed at stopping the smugglers, it is the thousands of refugees from Africa, Asia and the Middle East who will be directly affected.

The new law would impact boat people who were sent by July 19, 2013 to one of Australia's offshore processing camps on the Pacific islands of Nauru or Papua New Guinea's Manus. Canberra already bans them from resettling in Australia even if they are found to be actual refugees. Instead, the government gives the asylum seekers the options of returning home, making a life on one of the processing camp islands or going to a third country.

Children would be exempt from the ban, while the immigration minister would have the ability to make exceptions to the proposed law.

Immigration lawyer David Manne told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation the legislation "does nothing" to address the fundamental question about where the migrants will be taken "so they can rebuild their lives in safety and with dignity."

Mat Tinkler, Save the Children director of policy and public advocacy in Australia said, "The government must act urgently to give hope to these people, not continue to take it away."