Australia has rushed through legislation empowering it to impose home curfews and ankle bracelets on scores of migrants with criminal convictions, after a court ruling forced their release from detention.
The law, given royal assent Friday after being passed in parliament the previous evening, imposes penalties of up to five years in jail for breaching the new monitoring and curfew conditions.
“We did not want to let these people out of detention,” Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil said ahead of the law’s passage.
But the minister also said she had a message for the released migrants: “We will set the strictest possible conditions for you. If you do not follow them, you will end up back in jail.”
The High Court last week ruled that indefinite detention was “unlawful” if deportation was not an option, for example if an immigrant would face the death penalty in their home country.
The ruling has led Australian authorities to release about 80 detainees so far, some of who had served sentences for crimes including rape and murder.
The legislation, ushered in by the centre-left Labor Party government with the support of the conservative opposition, has been harshly criticised by civil rights groups.
“Every single day, Australian citizens who have been convicted of an offence re-enter the community after serving their time,” Human Rights Law Centre acting legal director Sanmati Verma said in a statement.
“For the government to suggest that migrants and refugees in the same position pose a different or greater risk is dangerous dog-whistling.”