World Bulletin: Rights groups say changes to Australian immigration laws put asylum seekers’ lives at risk

Refugee groups criticized the overhaul of Australia’s immigration laws Saturday, branding the changes “cruel” and claiming they will “fast-track vulnerable people to danger.”

The changes to the laws governing asylum seekers were passed by the senate early Friday morning and include the re-introduction of temporary protection visas and changes that allows the Australian government to deport refugees to any country, even if they face torture there.

Concessions to lawmakers include an increase in Australia’s annual refugee intake, extending the right to work and releasing children from detention centers – adopted by the government to ensure the amendments were passed.

Critics said the thrust of the bill was to release Australia from its obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention and give Immigration Minister Scott Morrison and his department unprecedented power over the lives of asylum seekers.

Greens immigration spokeswoman Senator Sarah Hanson-Young described the tactics used by Morrison as “blackmail”…