"Asylum seekers" in Australia's suburbs
THOUSANDS of asylum seekers are expected to flood the suburbs as the Federal Government rolls out bridging visas allowing boat people to live and work in the community and collect welfare.
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has handed out the first bridging visas for 27 men, mostly Afghans and Sri Lankans, whose refugee claims are being assessed. Mr Bowen said the men would be released from detention centres, including Melbourne, in coming days - with 100 a month to follow.
It comes as a secret government briefing note seen by the Herald Sun suggests thousands of boat people will soon be transferred into the community.
The NSW Government note reports a warning by the Immigration Department this week that arrivals will balloon when word spreads that asylum seekers arriving by boat are no longer to be held in detention. "Once it is widely known that IMAs will live in the community while being processed, the level of entries into Australia are very likely to escalate," the note said.
The majority are expected to be housed in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.
The note followed a meeting between Department of Immigration officials and the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet.
The radical move to a softened onshore processing system comes after the collapse of PM Julia Gillard's Malaysia deal and after the arrival of more than 300 asylum seekers this week.
Mr Bowen said the first batch of asylum seekers to be given bridging visas were long-term detainees who have cleared health, security and identity checks, and will live with friends or family. From next month, at least 100 people a month will be released while their asylum claims are processed.
A person's time in detention, their behavioural record and their family's ability to support them will decide who is chosen. "People who are assessed to pose an unacceptable risk to the community will remain in an immigration detention facility," Mr Bowen said.
Those released will be able to get jobs and up to $215 a week in means-tested payments, but will not qualify for Centrelink benefits.