Immigration Minister Scott Morrison says the government has closed Labor’s protection visa “shop”.
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has thrown down the gauntlet to Labor and the Greens by using his powers to cap the number of permanent protection visas for asylum seekers who arrive in Australia by boat.
The 1650 cap matches the number of visas already approved this financial year.
The decision means no new visas will be issued to onshore asylum seekers before July 2014.
As well, none of the 20,000 asylum seekers, who are on bridging visas and living in the community without work rights, will be able to apply for permanent protection.
“The government today has shut Labor’s protection visa shop … the door has been sealed shut,” Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.
The cap would remain in place until Labor and the Greens reversed their opposition to the reintroduction of temporary protection visas (TPVs), he said.
The two parties ganged up on the government this week to disallow TPVs which Mr Morrison introduced by regulation after the September election.
The minister’s latest move is by way of a non-disallowable instrument which means it can’t be struck down by the Senate.
The cap will not apply to the government’s offshore refugee and humanitarian program, such as the 500 visas allocated for people fleeing the bloody civil war in Syria.
The decision was condemned by the Australian Greens and refugee advocacy groups.
Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young described Mr Morrison as the “minister for cruelty”.
He was “thumping his chest to show how brutal he’s prepared to be. Taking out his thuggery on refugees”.
The Refugee Council of Australia said the move represented a new low.
“Australians should be ashamed that a government has inflicted more punishment and cruelty on people fleeing persecution and torture, to teach a lesson to the ALP and the Greens,” president Phil Glendenning said.
Mr Morrison signalled the government would be announcing other new measures.
But pulling out of the UN refugee convention had never been “under active consideration”.