Australian government hopes to rush laws that could detain dangerous migrants

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CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — The Australian government hopes to rush legislation through Parliament on Wednesday that could place behind bars some of the migrants freed after the High Court ruled their indefinite detention was unconstitutional.

The Senate on Tuesday passed draft legislation that would create so-called community safety orders.

Immigration Minister Andrew Giles would be able to apply to a judge to imprison migrants with criminal records for violent or sexual offenses because they pose an unacceptable risk to the public.

“We’ve already begun preparations to ensure that we can do all that we can as quickly as we can.” Giles told reporters.

Giles declined to say how many of the 148 freed migrants who for various reasons can’t be deported might be detained under community safety orders.

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil urged opposition lawmakers not to delay the legislation passing the House of Representatives on Wednesday by proposing amendments that could be unconstitutional.

But opposition immigration spokesperson Dan Tehan said amendments might be needed to ensure more migrants were detained. “The government needs to act to make sure that it’s continuing to make every effort to deport these people,” Tehan said.

Amnesty International refugee rights adviser Graham Thom said he was alarmed that the government was rushing through the legislation without appropriate parliamentary scrutiny.

The group urged a delay "to allow for proper scrutiny of this important, highly consequential new law,” Thom said in a statement.

“A sensible conversation is needed when balancing community safety with personal liberty. This is not a time for knee jerk responses,” Thom added.

The High Court on Nov. 8 ruled the indefinite detention of a stateless Myanmar Rohingya man who had been convicted of raping a 10-year-old boy was unconstitutional.

Government lawyers say the judges left open the option for such migrants to be detained if they pose a public risk. That decision would be made by a judge rather than a government minister.

The ruling said the government could no longer indefinitely detain foreigners who had been refused Australian visas, but could not be deported to their homelands and no third country would accept them.

Most of the 148 that have been released on the basis of the High Court ruling have been ordered to wear ankle tracking bracelets and to stay home during nightly curfews.

Three of the freed migrants have been rearrested. One with a criminal record for violent sexual assault was charged with the indecent assault of a woman. Another was charged with breaching his reporting obligations as a registered sex offender, and a third man was charged with drug possession.