Questions over ALP's detainee 'deportation or jail' law

Proposed federal government laws aimed at forcing detainees to co-operate with their deportation from Australia under the threat of jail won't work, the Greens say.

Rejected refugees afraid of returning to oppressive regimes in countries like Iran or Russia would likely choose the option of between one and five years in an Australian prison, the minor party's home affairs spokesman David Shoebridge argues.

"People who say their life is at risk if they go back to their country of origin, they're not going to suddenly want to go back to Afghanistan or Iran or Russia," the NSW senator told Sky News on Sunday.

"Literally returning political dissidents to Russia - would you rather go to jail here for a year here or go back and roll the dice with Vladimir Putin?

"I don't see how this is actually going to work."

The Labor government last week tried to ram the laws - which would impose a minimum one year minimum prison term and up to five years behind bars for people who don't co-operate with their deportation - through parliament.

The coalition, Greens and the entire Senate crossbench blocked the push and instead sent the legislation to a committee that will report back on its findings on May 7.

The opposition said last week the government had not made its case for why the laws had to be rushed through parliament in two days.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong in March.
Foreign Minister Penny Wong says the laws are essential to managing the immigration system. (Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS)

Foreign Minister Penny Wong on Sunday said the laws were integral to maintaining a strong immigration system.

"This is about the government identifying areas in our system of managing immigration and the removal of people from Australia who are found not to be refugees," she told Sky News.

It was also about "looking at what powers are needed to ensure we can manage that system properly."

Senator Shoebridge was critical of aspects of the legislation, including a provision that allows the immigration minister to stop issuing visas for travellers from entire nations that don't co-operate with Australia's attempts to return detainees.

This could include countries like Afghanistan, Iran, Russia and South Sudan.

But stopping people from coming to Australia only punished migrant communities, Senator Shoebridge argued.

"There are diaspora communities across the country thinking 'well is my country on the list'?" he said.

"Once a country is blacklisted under this legislation, your parents can't come out and see you, your family can't come out and see you."

However, the immigration minister would have the power to carve out certain visa classes from any restrictions imposed.

A blanket approach was unlikely and other diplomatic avenues would be explored first, Senator Wong said, noting that she, as foreign minister, would be consulted.

"That's a power which would only be exercised when necessary - it's a power which is one tool in the ways in which we seek to manage the immigration system," she said.

"It's not something that would be used in a in a blanket way.

"There might be other diplomatic avenues you would try and go through before you get to that point."