July 07, 2013
New Immigration Minister Tony Burke has signed off on the release of 18 young asylum seekers, just hours after visiting their Tasmanian detention centre.
After a visit to the Pontville facility near Hobart on Friday, Mr Burke declared he did not want any young person permanently held in detention.
He has since approved the release of 18 young detainees, who will be released into community detention around the country.
He is committing to do what he can to move young, unaccompanied minors out of detention centres.
“The welfare issues is not, as I see it, looking at the number of young people detained, it’s about looking at how long,” he said.
“When someone’s found to be in Australia unlawfully, at that moment under a technical legal definition, they’re detained.
“The key thing here is to look at the welfare of the child.”
Brighton Mayor Tony Foster says he hopes any asylum seekers released from Pontville would opt to live nearby while their claims are reviewed.
“We would like to see a bigger community – particularly of Afghanis and so forth – here in Tasmania,” he said.
“I think that they would find that they’d be well and truly received.
“Certainly if Burke carries through with what he’s talking about and allows these children to go into community home care in Tasmania, you know I’d love to see the majority of them stay here.
“Homestay is the way to go. There’s certainly 100 or 200 people ready to accommodate these children in their homes. Let’s give it a try.”
Refugee advocates say some of the 300 unaccompanied minors at the centre have been in detention for eight months.
Clarissa Adriel from the Asylum Seeker Support group says there are hundreds more boys awaiting release.
“It’s an excellent start, and I hope we see more of the young people in the community as well,” she said.
“Ultimately their claims need to be processed. I’m really hoping that we continue on from the 18 and progress to the other young people who are detained so it doesn’t just stall here or confuse people even more.”