Australia Signs New Code of Conduct for Asylum Seekers

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By Athena Yenko | December 17, 2013 4:59 PM EST

A new Code of Conduct to be imposed upon asylum seekers in Australia will take effect on Saturday, Dec 21.

The code to be applied to those on bridging visas imposes all asylum seekers to strictly obey laws in Australia; like laws as mundane as road rules. Under the new code of conduct, visa holders shall abide by all the rules as governed by Australia, including attending all interviews and submitting to health regulations issued by the chief medical officer from the immigration department.

Asylum seekers are expected not to engage in any form of harassment, intimidation, or bullying, and are prohibited from conducting "any anti-social or disruptive activities that are inconsiderate, disrespectful or threaten the peaceful enjoyment of other members of the community", the code stated.

The new code highlights that asylum seekers should not be involved in any criminal behaviour in Australia involving intentional damage to property, give false identity documents, or lie to a government official.

"If you are found to have breached the code of behaviour, you could have your income support reduced, or your visa may be cancelled. If your visa is cancelled, you will be returned to immigration detention and may be transferred to an offshore processing centre," as stated in the new code of conduct.

The Australian Greens found the new code discriminatory.

"This is clear discrimination against a specific group of people and it needs to be called out for what it is. Having one set of rules for some people and a different set of rules for others offend the very ideals of a fair and decent democratic society," Greens' spokeswoman Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said.

Refugee advocates, on the other hand, said that the new code does nothing to improve the conditions on which the asylum seekers were subjected to for a long time now.

"This new code of conduct is just more shock and awe to try and frighten people. I've sat through briefings for people who were released from detention six months ago, and those conditions were read out in no uncertain terms," Pamela Kerr from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre told ABC.

On the other hand, Refugee Council chief executive Paul Power sees the code as applicable to all Australian citizens, whether asylum seeker or not.

"I think it's unnecessary and it's all politics. The code of conduct essentially outlines aspects of Australian law which apply to everybody in the country. Everyone in this country could or should sign a code of behaviour but the idea that it's only necessary for asylum seekers to do so really is an unnecessary slur on the character of people."

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