12 December 2011

NSW and Victoria in revolt over Australian visa grants for refugees

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The recent announcement that thousands of asylum-seekers will be granted Australian bridging visas and moved out of detention centres has sparked outrage amongst state governments, with both New South Wales and Victoria attacking the Immigration Minister for the move.

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NSW and Victoria in revolt over Australian visa grants for refugees

The policy has only seen 27 Australian visa grants made to asylum-seekers so far. However, Immigration Minister Chis Bowen announced in October that he would issue a minimum of 100 bridging visas a month to refugees whose claims had not been finalised.

The actual figure is expected to be higher though, as it will depend on the rate of new asylum-seeker arrivals, which have escalated since the major parties failed to strike a deal on the offshore processing.

NSW Police Minister Mike Gallacher was one of the most outspoken critics of the announcement, saying that it had been made without any consultation with the states, even though it is the states who will be expected to provide many of the services the asylum-seekers will need.

When speaking to The Weekend Australia about the lack of communication from the Australian Immigration department, Mr Gallacher said: "No one picked up the phone; no one wrote to me.

"Some of these people, just simply by being released here, could find themselves either being the victims of crime, or indeed coming to police attention themselves. There's simply been no discussion between the state government and the federal government in terms of our preparedness to handle these matters."

Also speaking on the situation was the Victorian Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship, Nicholas Kotsiras. He expressed his concerns that settling asylum-seekers in the community without additional funding for services like mental health, education, and housing "may greatly disadvantage asylum-seekers by dumping them into communities without adequate support and without any concern for their welfare".

"Without providing additional support, the federal government will be working against the better interests of asylum-seekers themselves, the communities they will be placed in and social cohesion in Victoria." 

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people lodge applications with the Australian High Commission.

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