04 May 2012

Public steps up to help in Australian immigration row

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While the ongoing Australian immigration row continues to fray at political relationships, the public has demonstrated its charitable side by offering to take in asylum seekers in order to ease the strain in detention centres.

Australia visa

Australian families are opening their doors to help asylum seekers.

Australian immigration is currently a controversial topic in the country's political arena, with politicians from all sides advocating solutions while rubbishing others. While a compromise still seems out of reach, boats carrying asylum seekers continue to arrive; more than triple the number have arrived in recent weeks compared to the same period last year .

Authorities, concerned that capacities in Australia's detention centres could reach similar levels which led to riots in April 2011, have asked the public to help ease the burden.

The Australian Homestay Network (AHN), which usually assists international students find housing, has been inundated with calls since the scheme was announced yesterday.

Families who volunteer to take two asylum seekers, mostly single adult males aged between 18 and 25, for six weeks will receive payments for board, food and utilities totalling AU$300 (£190) a week tax free.

The Australian opposition, who typically favour a harsher approach on immigration, took the opportunity to criticise a relatively lenient policy by accusing the government of outsourcing their responsibilities when it came to asylum seekers.

"When Australians have expressed concern about costs of living, I don't think the answer they were looking for was to subcontract out their border protection crisis to pay out rent for people's spare rooms for asylum seekers," said opposition immigration spokesperson Scott Morrison.

Mr Morrison also expressed concern that the scheme could potentially pose a threat to national security but this was dismissed by the Department of Immigration, who said only asylum seekers from the Red Cross on a bridging Australia visa would be involved in the scheme.

"Their health, identity, character, security risk and past behaviour are assessed prior to release," said an immigration department spokesperson.

Due to the volatile nature of the immigration issue in Australia, the scheme was proposed tentatively but AHN Executive Director David Bycroft said the scheme had already proved itself incredibly popular.

"We've had 500 applications this morning Australia-wide. If anyone thought it was a bad idea, the Australian public doesn't agree," said Mr Bycroft.

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people lodge their Australia visa applications with the Australian Embassy London.

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