Quarter of asylum seekers moved to communities

In other words they are nor detained at all. They are home free

About a quarter of immigration detainees who have arrived by boat are now being housed in the community, a parliamentary inquiry has heard.

Immigration Department secretary Andrew Metcalfe has given an update on the figures at an inquiry hearing in Canberra. He told the Joint Select Committee that around 800 asylum seekers have been approved for community detention since August.

Mr Metcalfe says in the past month the detention population has steadily increased to more than 5,500 people. "The large numbers of arrivals continue to place strain on the detention network," he said.

"We all understand the potential consequences of a return to an overcrowded and pressured detention network and you can be assured that the Department is doing all we can to avoid that."

A boat carrying more than 160 asylum seekers was intercepted off Christmas Island on Tuesday.

Mr Metcalfe estimates it will cost close to $1 million to respond to the detention network inquiry. The inquiry started in June and is due to report back by March next year.

Mr Metcalfe says his Department has made detailed submissions to the inquiry. "We've responded either in hearings or on notice to over 1,100 questions from the Committee, provided over 4,000 pages of written material and some 26 departmental employees have been made available as witnesses," he said.

"The total direct cost to the Department responding to and supporting the Committee is projected to be in excess of $970,000 by the end of this financial year."


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