Roof-top protesters at the Villawood Detention Centre could be sent home under laws being

proposed by Immigration Minister Chris Bowen.


He plans to toughen the immigration character test to make sure any refugees convicted of a crime while in detention would be denied a protection visa.

This follows major disturbances at detention centres on Christmas Island and at Villawood in Sydney, when detainees rioted, burning down buildings and causing extensive damage.

If passed by parliament, the laws would be backdated.

“These changes will remove any doubt around the character test and send a strong and clear message that the kind of unacceptable behaviour we saw recently at the Christmas Island and Villawood detention centres will not be tolerated,” he said in a statement.

West Australian based activists Project SafeCom immediately savaged Mr Bowen.

“Chris Bowen has lowered himself to levels of craven idiot-style populism far beyond former immigration minister Philip Ruddock, who was often accused of running a cruelty regime,” the group’s spokesman Jack Smit said in a statement.

“Labor came to power promising to process 90 per cent of all asylum claims within 90 days.

“It takes a calculator from the two dollar shop to show that if completing 1000 asylum claims within 90 days takes 40 assessment officers, then it takes 80 assessment officers to process 2000 claims, and it takes 120 assessment officers to process 3000 claims within 90 days.”

Greens immigration spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young said the government was again failing to consider why people in immigration detention were being pushed to breaking point.

“Rather than looking at how we can fix those systematic problems, the government is desperately looking at an excuse to reintroduce temporary protection visas,” she told ABC Radio.

Senator Hanson-Young said she didn’t excuse violent conduct but the government had to take some responsibility for the environment in which these actions took place.

She said those failing the character test or found not to be in genuine need of protection should be sent safely home.

“We are not interested in people not needing protection being given protection,” she said.

Senator Hanson-Young said those facing charges relating to violence or damaging property should still proceed through the

criminal justice system.

“But that shouldn’t stop a determination about whether they are a refugee or not,” she said.

“That is based on whether they are indeed actually in fear of persecution and need protection.”