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Australia posts code of conduct for asylum-seekers

SYDNEY--Asylum-seekers living in Australia face having their welfare payments cut, visas cancelled or being placed in detention if they breach a new code of conduct forbidding anti-social behavior that sparked condemnation Tuesday.

The code, which came into force on Saturday and applies to those on bridging visas, contains a list of expected behavior for living in Australia — including that applicants obey all laws, including road rules.

It says visa holders must cooperate with all reasonable requests from the government about their visa status, including to attend interviews, and obey any health direction issued by the immigration department's chief medical officer.

In addition, they cannot “harass, intimidate or bully” anyone or engage in “any anti-social or disruptive activities that are inconsiderate, disrespectful or threaten the peaceful enjoyment of other members of the community.”

Earlier this year Scott Morrison, who was then an opposition politician but is now immigration minister, called for “behavior protocols” for asylum-seekers after a Sri Lankan man was charged with sexual assault.

“If you are found to have breached the code of behavior, you could have your income support reduced, or your visa may be cancelled,” the code states.

“If your visa is cancelled, you will be returned to immigration detention and may be transferred to an offshore processing center.”

The new code, which states people must not become involved in criminal behavior in Australia, deliberately damage property, give false identity documents or lie to a government official, has been criticized by the Australian Greens.

“This is clear discrimination against a specific group of people and it needs to be called out for what it is,” spokeswoman Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said.

“Having one set of rules for some people and a different set of rules for others offends the very ideals of a fair and decent democratic society.”

But in an explanatory statement, the government said it had become increasingly concerned about non-citizens who engaged in conduct that is not in line with the expectations of the Australian community.

It said the regulation imposing the code was compatible with human rights and limitations were “reasonable, necessary and proportionate.”

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