28 November 2011

Australian immigration makes decision on boatpeople asylum seekers

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Australian Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has announced plans for refugees seeking asylum in Australia to be released from detention and granted temporary bridging visas while their claims are being assessed.

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Some refugees seeking asylum in Australia will be released from detention and granted temporary bridging visas.

The Australian government is currently detaining approximately 3,800 people in immigration detention centres, many of whom arrived without an Australia visa. Those who have waited the longest for their claims to be assessed will be given priority when bridging visas are being allocated.

The Minister has said he expects at least 100 bridging visas a month to be allocated to detainees who have had to endure significant delays in application processing times. Critics have called the conditions that the detainees have been held in 'dehumanising', with rates of self-harm and suicide within the immigration detention centres both on the rise over the last year.

To date, 27 refugees have been confirmed by the Minister to have been given bridging visas, which allows them to live and work in the community while they continue to wait for their applications to be processed. Mr. Bowen added that the men had undergone relevant checks and were mainly from Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. "Onshore processing is now the practical and legal reality, it is the only lawful thing to do”, the Minister said.

The Australian immigration policy follows a failed attempt by the Australian government to send some refugees to Malaysia, a move which was blocked by the High Court. As a political issue, the area of refugees, particularly those that arrive by boat, continues to divide opinion in Australia, despite the numbers involved being relatively small by global standards. Campaigners for the rights of refugees point out that seeking asylum is not illegal, no matter the method of arrival to Australia’s border.


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

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