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November 25, 2011


by refugeeactioncoalitionsydney

The Immigration Minister’s announcement that asylum seekers are being released from detention on bridging visas has been welcomed as a very modest first step by the Refugee Action Coalition.

While all the details of the bridging visas are not clear, it does seem that income support, access to Medicare and the right to work, will be minimum conditions. The length of time for income support, and support for English classes and other education opportunities are some issues that still need clarification.

“It must be patently obvious that particularly long term detainees will be in no fit condition to immediately find jobs to support themselves. And the need for English classes also should be obvious,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“The proposal is puzzling and piecemeal and lacks consistency and transparency. It remains unclear exactly who is eligible for release. It is this arbitrariness that is one of the main causes for tensions in the detention centres.

“We question why the Minister says that only up to 100 a month may be released on bridging visas. At that rate only 1200 will be released over the 12 months year, when there are over 2000 people presently in detention for longer than a year and 750 for two years or longer.

“Another obvious question is why are people still waiting for security clearances? Some of the Tamils arriving in Sydney tonight are refugees waiting in detention for 19 months and longer. They should be getting permanent visas, not bridging visas.

“There are 600 stateless asylum seekers that should be released immediately. Three stateless Faili Kurds in Darwin still have their lips stitched – one of them has stopped taking water or nourishment at all. Why are they not being released? Who are the mysterious asylum seekers the Minister refers to being assessed as posing ‘an unacceptable risk to the community’?

“It is not obvious why some people are staying in detention and others are being released. This proposal needs clarification and systematic implementation and it needs it in a hurry.”

“The shift to processing all asylum seekers through the RRT is a positive step to eliminate the discriminatory off-shore processing arrangements but unless there is a review of all the off-shore processing decisions, many victims of off-shore processing will be left in detention or vulnerable to deportation.”

“Finally, there is a shameful contradiction at the heart of the Minister’s announcement. It has everything to do with expediency and little to do with justice for asylum seekers. Rather than change the law to scrap off-shore processing, the Minister is maintaining it just in case, Tony Abbott will cooperate to allow the to implement the Malaysia Solution in the future.”

For more information contact Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713

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