The Australian parliament has passed laws that give the government the power to detain refugees indefinitely.
The governing coalition and opposition Labor Party on Thursday joined forces to vote the Migration Amendment Bill into law, reports Xinhua news agency.
The laws give the government the power to detain indefinitely refugees who have had their visas cancelled but cannot be returned to their country of origin because they would face persecution there.
Legal experts and the parliament’s human rights committee have raised serious concerns about the legislation.
In a statement released on Thursday, the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) said the laws would cause serious harm.
“Locking up people indefinitely will clearly lead to a high risk of self-harm or suicide,” spokesperson Greg Barns said.
“It amounts to detention without trial and is a gross breach of Australia’s human rights obligations.
“This is cruel and unnecessary. The legislation must be revised to remove the government’s power to keep people locked up indefinitely with no plan for their future.”
The laws apply to 21 refugees already in immigration detention.
Tabling the legislation in March, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said it was an “important change” to “ensure that we uphold Australia’s non-refoulement obligations.”
“It is essential that Australia sends a strong message that we are committed to upholding human rights, and that we remain steadfast in our commitment to these treaties and their underlying principles,” he said.
However, the government-controlled joint parliamentary committee on human rights said the laws “may have implications for Australia’s obligation not to subject any person to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”.