PERTH • Australia said yesterday that it is stopping "undesirables" such as terrorists, paedophiles, organised criminals and drug smugglers from boarding flights to the country - defending its hardline immigration policy, which has drawn criticism from rights groups.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said Australian Border Force airline liaison officers were operating in major transit airports to push those threats "beyond our borders". Where other nations "allow people to arrive and then assess the threat", the "Australian model" was to bar those considered a threat, he said.
"(Liaison officers) try to identify the threats - particularly given that we've got foreign fighters coming back through South-east Asia and all over - the idea is to stop them getting on planes," Mr Dutton told the Nine Network.
According to media reports, immigration officials have prevented 1,043 passengers from boarding flights to Australia since 2013.
The country has seen the rise of nationalist, anti-immigration politics - with parties on the far right such as One Nation garnering strong public support, while the popularity of the ruling centre-right government has been languishing.
Under its policy for asylum seekers arriving by boat, Australia turns back unauthorised vessels at sea to their port of origin when it can do so. Those it cannot turn back, it sends to controversial camps in the South Pacific for long-term detention.
Earlier this year, the government announced that it would raise the bar for citizenship by lengthening the waiting period, adding an "Australian values" test and raising standards for the English language as part of a shake-up of its immigration programme.