By JR on Sunday, March 04, 2012
AUSTRALIA will quadruple the number of asylum seekers released from detention to live in the community, prompting accusations the Gillard Government has quietly dismantled mandatory detention.
The dramatic increase allowing 400 asylum seekers a month to be released on bridging visas to live and work or claim welfare payments before their claims are finalised prompted Coalition warnings yesterday of a "let them in and let them out" policy.
But it will be welcomed by the Greens, who have long called for the dismantling of the inhumane detention of asylum seekers.
Asylum seekers had previously remained in detention until their claims for refugee status were finalised, some after years, and were then released into the community or deported.
The forecast of 400 asylum seekers a month to be released into the community is the same number the department expects to arrive by boat every month over the next year.
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen flagged the new policy in November, predicting 100 asylum seekers a month would be released.
"The rate at which we are currently processing people would see us releasing about 400 people a month on bridging visas," deputy secretary John Moorhouse said.
Immigration secretary Andrew Metcalfe added in evidence to a parliamentary hearing that on current boat arrival, "we believe we will probably get up to that figure".
Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison ridiculed Minister Bowen's earlier pledge that the policy of mandatory detention was "rock solid". "Labor's policy for illegal boat arrivals has now been exposed as simply being let them in and let them out," Mr Morrison said.
"The revelation the number of bridging visas will rise to four times the level indicated by the Minister when he announced the scheme just three months ago shows just how far the Labor Government has embraced the Greens policy of onshore release.
"The big winners are people smugglers. The Government's own figures reveal the average price paid on these boats is $10,000 a person."
But the Government expects to rein in a budget blowout sparked by rising arrivals under the policy. That is because it is cheaper to allow asylum seekers to live and work in the community or claim welfare payments than it is to house them in remote detention centres.