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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Asylum seekers to be released into community: minister

Twenty seven asylum seekers who arrived by boat will be released into the community on bridging visas today for the first time, the Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said today.
The federal government has also announced it would stop treating boat arrivals as a separate stream of asylum seekers - and all asylum seekers arriving by boat would have access to the Refugee Review Tribunal from next year. The tribunal is now only available to asylum seekers who arrived by plane.
Until now, boat arrivals faced interview and assessment for refugee status under a special system, with separate rules.

Asylum seekers to be released into community: minister
Kirsty Needham, Immigration Correspondent
November 25, 2011 - 1:41PM

Kirsty Needham, Immigration Correspondent

Twenty seven asylum seekers who arrived by boat will be released into the community on bridging visas today for the first time, the Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said today.

The federal government has also announced it would stop treating boat arrivals as a separate stream of asylum seekers - and all asylum seekers arriving by boat would have access to the Refugee Review Tribunal from next year. The tribunal is now only available to asylum seekers who arrived by plane.

Until now, boat arrivals faced interview and assessment for refugee status under a special system, with separate rules.

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However, decisions in this system were being overturned at high rates this year when they reached the Federal Magistrates Court on appeal, which found high rates of lack of procedural fairness.

Boat arrivals had to fund their own cases in the Federal Magistrates Court, and were only able to access judicial review this year because of a High Court decision in December last year.

"With the legislative impasse and the resulting move towards greater community placement, there is no longer any benefit to parallel processing arrangements for offshore entry persons," Mr Bowen said.

It is the first time bridging visas have been used for boat arrivals by the Gillard government, which has maintained a policy of mandatory detention for boat arrivals. All in the group all single men, mostly from Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.

The men will need to report to the Immigration Department regularly and will have the right to work and access health services.

"These men have gone through an assessment process prior to their selection, including identity, security and behaviour checks.

"They will live in the community on bridging visas while their asylum claims are completed and their status is resolved," Mr Bowen said.

Priority for community release under the new bridging visa program will go to asylum seekers who have spent the longest time in detention, he said.

"This will be an ongoing, staged process to ensure an orderly transition to the community and that only suitable people are released.

"We would expect to see at least 100 IMAs eventually being released every month," Mr Bowen said.

He indicated that immigration detainees who have been found not to be refugees and have refused to return to their country of origin are unlikely to be issued bridging visas.

"Those people who are assessed to pose an unacceptable risk to the community will remain in an immigration detention facility," he said.

smh.com.au

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