SYDNEY - Australia is proposing new laws to make it easier to strip citizenship from convicted terrorists. Legislation is to be introduced before the end of the year, and follows a deadly Islamic State-inspired knife attack in Melbourne in early November.
Under current laws, the Australian government can strip citizenship only from people who have been sentenced to at least six years in prison. The measures have allowed authorities to revoke the Australian citizenship of nine individuals, but Prime Minister Scott Morrison is proposing further changes.
He wants to alter the threshold for stripping Australian citizenship, allowing it to be taken from anyone convicted of a terrorist crime.
?No longer welcome
Morrison says people who commit such crimes on Australian soil will no longer be welcome.
“People who commit acts of terrorism have rejected, absolutely, everything that this country stands for,” Morrison said. “They have rejected the beliefs of this country, the values of this country, they have disrespected every other citizen who shares that privilege of citizenship with them.
“First of all, we will seek to introduce legislation before the end of 2018 to enable the minister to strip an Australian citizen of their citizenship for anyone who is convicted of a terrorism offense in Australia. There will be no condition on the length of sentence,” he said.
Under the proposed changes, the Australian government would only have to be “reasonably satisfied” that a convicted extremist had the citizenship of another country to fall back on.
Lawyers, though, have argued the changes could see individuals refused citizenship by another country languish indefinitely in immigration detention.
Ministers also want to ban people involved in terrorism overseas from returning to Australia for two years. It would be similar to legislation in the United Kingdom.
The Morrison government is also urging the Australian parliament’s powerful intelligence and security committee to finish considering new legislation that would allow law enforcement agencies to access encrypted messages.
Earlier this week, three men were arrested on suspicion of plotting a “mass killing” terror attack in Australia’s second biggest city, Melbourne. The men, all Australian nationals of Turkish descent, were detained in counterterrorism raids Tuesday. They have been charged with terrorism offenses and are to appear back in court next year.
On Nov. 9, a Somali-born migrant killed one man and injured two others in central Melbourne. Authorities said the man had been inspired by the Islamic State militant group. The suspect died after being shot by police.
Intelligence agencies say 90 people have been charged in connection with 40 counterterrorism investigations across Australia since September 2014.
The nation’s official terror threat level remains at “probable.”