20 February 2012

Charities speak out over controversial remarks about Australian immigration

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Charities and human rights organisations have condemned Opposition Leader Tony Abbott who last week stated that while Australia continues to 'roll out the red carpet' to asylum seekers, Australian immigration problems would continue.

Australian immigration

Mr Abbott's remarks have been roundly criticised.

Mr Abbott described the facilities the Australian immigration department provides asylum seekers, including televisions and white-goods as a luxury which encouraged people smuggling.

His comments were met with outrage by the government as well as charities, church groups and other humanitarian organisations.

Former Australian of the Year, Patrick McGorry, said: "Community detention is a much better scenario for people in terms of avoiding the damage that long-term detention causes. This has been a positive move and I am not sure why it is being painted this way."

The Red Cross commented that the policy which Mr Abbott was so critical of was implemented originally by his own party during the previous Howard government and that reports of the 'care packages' which asylum seekers received were greatly exaggerated.

Pamela Curr, of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, said the facilities could not be described as luxury as there was often a lack of storage space and many of the televisions provided were second hand.

A local priest claimed that releasing asylum seekers into the community with no assistance would "create a criminal underclass. In terms of cost and morality, you can't call it a red carpet."

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen also criticised Mr Abbott's comments, he defended the current facilities as 'not a handout' and called on Mr Abbott to "stop playing negative politics and work with the government" to "provide a real deterrent to dangerous boat journeys."

Foundation House Director Paris Aristotle, who also worked in the Howard government, said over 3,000 people had been placed in community detention since 2011 and that the "programme has saved the taxpayer money and also Australia's obligation to vulnerable children."

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