Community Release Soon For Asylum Seekers

Community release soon for asylum seekers

By Andrew Probyn, Nick Butterly and Andrew Tillett
The Age (Melbourne), October 16, 2010

Hundreds of asylum seekers will be released from high security detention and allowed to live in the community under a plan being drafted by the Gillard government.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen is believed to be preparing to announce the community release to relieve overflowing detention centres on the mainland and on Christmas Island.

Asylum seekers who are not considered a security risk would be eligible for community detention, including family groups, children and unaccompanied minors. The government has been in discussion with charities, church groups and refugee welfare organisations to find accommodation. This would include hostels and houses owned by the groups.

Welfare groups contacted by The Age yesterday said discussions with the government about community detention for asylum seekers predated the August 21 election.

It is understood priority would be given to families with school-age children and that release from detention centres would be staggered as housing becomes available.

According to the Immigration officials, 742 children are detained by authorities, as well as 382 unaccompanied minors. Of the children, 281 are on Christmas Island and 461 are in mainland centres.

All up, 5056 asylum seekers are now in detention, of whom 2769 are on Christmas Island. A record 106 asylum-seeker boats have arrived this year, already 20 more than the previous record of 86 in 1999.

A spokesman for Mr Bowen indicated an announcement was imminent.