13 October 2011

Onshore processing now part of Australian immigration system

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The Australian Government has announced it will now process asylum applications onshore following the defeat of its amendments to the Migration Act in Parliament.

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Onshore processing back on the agenda after the Malaysia refugee swap deal was defeated in the Australian Parliament.

The Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Immigration Minister Chris Bowen have announced that asylum seekers will now be processed on the Australian mainland and in communities after the Government was unable to secure the votes needed to pass its refugee swap deal with Malaysia.

The Government has admitted that Australian immigration detention centres are at capacity and have announced that a community detention system will be further developed and a bridging visa will be provided to those unable to be processed within the existing detention network.

The allocation of this form of Australia visa - often issued to visa over-stayers - will mean some asylum seekers are awarded privileges not currently available to immigration detainees such as social security and the possibility of employment.

"Bridging visas generally have work rights," Mr Bowen said.

"Generally speaking the access to payment support is limited to situations where it is means-tested and it is necessary for someone's ability to continue to live in the community and it is available at 89 per cent of the special benefit."

Ms Gillard said she is still committed to Malaysian swap deal and described the introduction of onshore processing as the "only option". The Prime Minister has laid blame squarely on Opposition leader Tony Abbott whose Liberal-National Coalition did not support the amendments to the Migration Act.

"There is only one reason that we are not in the circumstance to have offshore processing. And that's because of Mr Abbott and his determination to trash the national interest," Ms Gillard said.

"And if there is ever a day when Mr Abbott wakes up and is prepared to act in the national interest then the legislation will be immediately brought on."

Gillard said the Government expects an increase in boat arrivals and will act swiftly to alleviate pressure on the immigration detention network.


Australian Visa Bureau is an independent immigration consultancy that specialises in helping people lodge applications with the Australian High Commission.

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