March 28, 2013
The Federal Government is considering moving hundreds of asylum seekers out of community detention and onto bridging visas.
The West Australian newspaper has reported the Government is considering expanding the program to include families in a bid to save money and reduce the pressure on the detention network.
Several boats, together carrying more than 380 asylum seekers, have arrived since the weekend.
According to the Immigration Department, about 2,000 asylum seekers are currently being detained on Christmas Island.
The centre is able to hold just over 2,000 people, including its contingency capacity.
Asylum seekers on bridging visas move into the community and receive the lowest welfare benefit available and are not eligible to work.
Immigration Minister Brendan O’Connor says before expanding the program he must consider its wider impact.
“We do have some people on bridging visas already. The question being put to me as to whether in fact we’d have families on bridging visas – that’s something for the Government to consider,” he said.
“We will not make any decisions if we believe it’ll encourage people smugglers to lure people onto unseaworthy vessels on perilous journeys.”
Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison has told Sky News he is concerned about the management of the whole community release system.
“That’s a decision the Government seems to be considering in panic, that’s what drove the consideration for community release in the first place,” he said.
Meanwhile, an asylum seeker boat carrying 147 people has been intercepted in waters south-west of Darwin.
The Government says the asylum seekers will be taken to a detention centre at Darwin where they will undergo health and security checks.
And Sri Lanka’s navy has seized a fishing trawler carrying at least 97 people on their way to Australia.