‘Rolling out the red carpet’ for asylum seekers

Parliament house flag post

‘Rolling out the red carpet’ for asylum seekers

Posted 21/02/2012 by Janet Phillips

Recent media reports that ‘asylum seekers are receiving plasma TVs, microwave ovens, DVD players’ and other ‘free handouts’ whilst in community detention are inaccurate and only serve to mislead and misinform the public on what is a very complex issue.

Due to the recent expansion of Australia’s community detention arrangements, several community houses around the country have been furnished in order to prepare for occupancy. However, as the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen, pointed out in a recent media release, none of these basic household goods are allocated to individuals detained under community detention arrangements. In fact, the items provided are only there for the use of the occupants while they remain in either community or held detention.

The Australian Government has a duty of care to support all detainees while they are being held under Australia’s mandatory immigration detention system and, as the Minister noted, individuals held in community detention are unauthorised to work and are often the most vulnerable of all the detainees:

The Australian Government has a duty of care to provide basic items such as cleaning supplies, furniture and bedding, and baby items such as prams for vulnerable asylum seekers in community detention. People do not get to keep these goods—they remain in a house when a family moves out and are used by the next people who move in...
People who are approved for community detention are the most vulnerable in the detention network because they are children, families with children, or because they have serious mental health issues or have suffered torture and trauma.
Similar claims that refugees and asylum seekers receive free houses, mobile phones or higher social security benefits than age pensioners, have been doing the rounds for years. Most of the claims are misleading and many are adapted from international emails referring to conditions elsewhere, prompting the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) to release several press releases and letters to the editor in an attempt to correct the record. The Refugee Council of Australia has also refuted many of these claims.

Asylum seekers receive very basic support while their applications for protection are processed. Under arrangements introduced by the Howard Government in 2005 (with bipartisan support) the Red Cross is funded to assist asylum seekers in community detention to find housing and access health and community services. See the Parliamentary Library paper, Australian government assistance to refugees: fact v fiction, for more detail.

Why community detention?

Mandatory immigration detention has been the subject of vigorous debate since it was introduced in Australia in 1992, igniting great passion in both its supporters and detractors. Since then, unease at the detention of asylum seekers in often remote locations and the duration and conditions of their detention have plagued successive governments beginning in the early 1990s when there were several hunger strikes, rooftop demonstrations and suicide attempts at centres in detention centres—see the Parliamentary Library publication, Immigration detention in Australia, for more detail.

The Howard Government introduced community detention for families with children in June 2005 after significant pressure from refugee advocates and certain Coalition back benchers concerned at the escalating unrest in detention and the deteriorating conditions experienced by detainees.

It was further expanded in October 2010 by the Gillard Government in response to growing pressure on the detention network due to an increase in boat arrivals and corresponding concerns expressed by interest groups. To further release the pressure on the detention network, in October 2011 the Government also announced that some asylum seekers who arrive unauthorised by boat would be removed from detention altogether, issued with bridging visas and released into the community while their claims are processed.

What are the advantages?

Over the years many have argued that there are many less costly and less harmful alternatives to mandatory immigration detention in often remote facilities. Australia’s Human Rights Commission argues that the strain on the detention network is unsustainable and is unnecessary, costly, counter-productive and harmful to the physical and mental health of detainees. The UNHCR has stated that ‘asylum seekers should not be detained beyond the purpose of assessing identity, health and security checks’ and that moving from a focus on detention centres to either community detention or other ‘detention alternatives’ affords significant savings.

In Senate Estimates on 13 February 2012 (Immigration portfolio, Hansard transcript, pp. 18 and 103), DIAC officials outlined the many benefits of community detention:
Clients who live in community detention, and therefore have more responsibility for managing their own lives, can be expected to experience better mental health because they are living and operating as a person normally would. Improved family relationships are a consequence as well. Clients also have the opportunity to regain some of the living skills that they would have lost in the journey and in, potentially, their time in Indonesia, in detention and so on. That is beneficial to them ... whether they remain in Australia or return home. Similarly, for those granted visas, a better understanding of life in Australia and opportunities to learn some English, make connections in the community and so on, should enhance their settlement prospects. We also expect to see some reduced downstream costs ... including the cost of mental and physical health services, family intervention services and other support programs. And there is the potential that time in community detention could facilitate a faster entry to the workforce once someone does get a visa. Clients are allowed to volunteer, so the opportunity to volunteer with an organisation or what have you, may lead to the opportunity for a job later on.
Community detention is just one of the strategies being pursued to ease the pressure on the immigration detention network at present and it affords many benefits, including lower costs. Since mandatory immigration detention was introduced the Australian Government has been obliged to care for those it detains, including the provision of a basic range of practical household items in all its detention facilities and community accommodation.


Thank you for your comment. If it does not require moderation, it will appear shortly.
Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Add | Email Print

FlagPost

Flagpost is a blog on current issues of interest to members of the Australian Parliament


Parliamentary Library Logo showing Information Analysis & Advice

Archive

Syndication

Tagcloud

Refugees asylum immigration Australian foreign policy Parliament climate change elections women social security Australian Bureau of Statistics Employment indigenous Australians Sport illicit drugs people trafficking taxation Medicare welfare reform Australian Defence Force higher education welfare policy United Nations health financing gambling Asia Middle East criminal law disability Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency World Anti-Doping Agency United States federal budget school education forced labour aid statistics Australian Electoral Commission WADA income management Industrial Relations emissions trading dental health Australia in the Asian Century steroids detention Private health insurance OECD ASADA labour force transport Law Enforcement Australian Federal Police people smuggling poker machines National Disability Insurance Scheme Australian Crime Commission 43rd Parliament slavery election results Papua New Guinea Australian Public Service constitution International Women's Day corruption Afghanistan Fair Work Act child protection Aviation debt federal election 2013 parliamentary procedure ALP New Zealand Newstart Parenting Payment political parties Census politics High Court skilled migration voting Federal Court terrorist groups Higher Education Loan Program HECS governance youth paid parental leave environment foreign debt gross debt net debt defence capability customs Senate doping health crime health risks multiculturalism aged care Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling sex slavery sea farers Special Rapporteur leadership United Kingdom UK Parliament Electoral reform banking firearms public policy Population violence against women domestic violence mental health China ADRV terrorism science research and development social media pensions welfare ASIO intelligence community Australian Security Intelligence Organisation accountability public service reform Carbon Pricing Mechanism carbon tax mining military history employer employee fishing by-election European Union same sex relationships international relations coal seam gas family assistance planning Senators and Members United Nations Security Council Australian economy food vocational education and training Drugs health reform Indonesia children codes of conduct terrorist financing health system money laundering early childhood education Canada Financial sector national security fuel disability employment Tasmania integrity transparency Australian Secret Intelligence Service sexual abuse federal state relations World Trade Organization Australia housing affordability bulk billing water renewable energy children's health health policy Governor-General US economy export liquefied natural gas foreign bribery question time speaker superannuation expertise climate Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry food labelling Pacific Islands reserved seats new psychoactive substances synthetic drugs UNODC carbon markets Indigenous constitutional recognition of local government local government consumer laws PISA royal commission US politics language education baby bonus Leaders of the Opposition Parliamentary remuneration Australia Greens federal election 2010 servitude Trafficking Protocol energy forced marriage rural and regional Northern Territory Emergency Response ministries social citizenship human rights emissions reduction fund; climate change child care funding refugees immigration asylum procurement Indigenous health e-voting internet voting nsw state elections 44th Parliament 2015 ABS Age Pension Death penalty capital punishment execution Bali nine Bali bombings Trade EU China soft power education Fiji India Disability Support Pension Antarctica Diplomacy by-elections state and territories workers Bills anti-corruption fraud bribery corporate ownership whistleblower G20 economic reform innovation standards NATO Members of Parliament Scottish referendum Middle East; national security; terrorism social services Criminal Code Amendment (Misrepresentation of Age to a Minor) Bill 2013 online grooming sexual assault of minors ACT Assembly public health smoking plain packaging tobacco cigarettes Asia; Japan; international relations Work Health and Safety Migration; asylum seekers; regional processing China; United States; international relations fiscal policy Racial Discrimination Act; social policy; human rights; indigenous Australians Foreign policy Southeast Asia Israel Palestine regional unemployment asylum refugees immigration political finance donations foreign aid Economics efficiency productivity human rights; Racial Discrimination Act employment law bullying asylum seekers Animal law; food copyright Australian Law Reform Commission industry peace keeping contracts workplace policies trade unions same-sex marriage disorderly conduct retirement Parliament House standing orders public housing prime ministers election timetable sitting days First speech defence budget submarines Somalia GDP forestry world heritage political engagement leave loading Trade; tariffs; safeguards; Anti-dumping public interest disclosure whistleblowing Productivity Commission regulation limitation period universities Ireland cancer gene patents genetic testing suspension of standing and sessional orders animal health live exports welfare systems infant mortality middle class welfare honorary citizen railways disciplinary tribunals standard of proof World Health Organisation arts international students skilled graduate visas temporary employment visas apologies roads Italy national heritage NHMRC nutrition anti-dumping Constitutional reform referendum Rent Assistance competition policy pharmaceutical benefits scheme obesity evidence law sacrament of confession US presidential election international days DFAT UN General Assembly deregulation Regulation Impact Statements administrative law small business Breaker Morant homelessness regional engagement social determinants of health abortion Youth Allowance Members suspension citizen engagement policymaking workplace health and safety Trafficking in Persons Report marine reserves hearing TAFE Victoria astronomy resources sector YMCA youth parliament alcohol Korea rebate Australian Greens presidential nomination Racial Discrimination Act entitlements political parties preselection solar hot water Financial Action Taskforce Horn of Africa peacekeeping piracy Great Barrier Reef Stronger futures political financing Hung Parliament political education social inclusion Social Inclusion Board maritime early childhood National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care Murray-Darling Basin Iran sanctions Norway hospitals republic President Barack Obama Presidential visits ANZUS qantas

Show all
Show less
Back to top