Government Puts Refugee Services Under Spotlight

Government puts refugee services under spotlight

Posted Mon Jun 29, 2009 7:48am AEST
Updated Mon Jun 29, 2009 7:46am AEST

The Government says it will begin extensive community consultations today to improve services for refugee settlement.

The consultation process will run from today until mid-August and focuses on services first used by refugees, such as accommodation, health services and counselling.

Parliamentary Secretary for Multicultural Affairs, Laurie Ferguson, says Australia is already ranked in the world's top refugee resettlement countries.

Immigration Minister Chris Evans says there will be more unauthorised people coming to Australia because of regional wars.

Senator Evans says the interception of an asylum seeker boat off Christmas Island yesterday carrying 194 people was disappointing.

He has rejected the Opposition view that recent changes to immigration laws are encouraging people smugglers.

“We've got an awful lot of people moving through south-east Asia at the moment,” he said.

“The worsening situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan – and of course the developments in Sri Lanka – means that there's a lot of people seeking safe haven throughout south east Asia and many of them [are] hoping to come to Australia.”

'We're coping'

Meanwhile the Christmas Island Shire says the island's detention centre will not reach capacity as long as the Government continues to process current detainees.

Shire President Gordon Thomson believes another 49 are on their way, following the 194 arrivals yesterday.

Mr Thomson says the latest arrivals are expected to take the number of asylum seekers in the detention centre to about 700.

“The facilities can accommodate the number of people who are here and the number of people who are expected to come in the next week,” he said.

“It then remains to be seen whether or not the Department's able to process some of the people who've been here for several months.”

Mr Thomson says there should not be a problem if the rate of arrivals does not increase.

“But if the rate of arrivals does increase then there might be an issue,” he said.

“The maximum capacity of the island is 1,200 refugees and that is a maximum.”