Date: 
Friday 14 October 2011

The Australian Human Rights Commission has welcomed the government’s move to process claims for asylum on the Australian mainland.

The Commission also welcomes the government’s decision to make greater use of bridging visas and community detention.

“For a long time we have said that asylum seekers should be able to live in the community while their refugee claims are processed,” Commission President Catherine Branson QC said.

“This is an effective and humane alternative to indefinite detention, which is extremely expensive and causes people serious mental harm.”

Ms Branson said the use of community-based alternatives such as bridging visas and community detention is in line with existing government policy. It is also in line with Australia’s international obligations.

“The community detention system was created by the former government in 2005 and has been significantly expanded for unaccompanied minors and family groups over the past year,” Ms Branson said.

“Many asylum seekers who arrive in Australia by air already live in the community on bridging visas.

“The Commission is pleased that the use of bridging visas will be extended to asylum seekers who arrive by boat and we hope to see that happen as quickly as possible,” Ms Branson said.

Ms Branson said that by international standards, Australia receives a very small number of asylum seekers. Asylum seekers who arrive by boat are a small percentage of Australia’s annual migration intake.

“The Commission is concerned however, that the government has stated that it remains committed to offshore processing,” she said.

“In addition to onshore processing, the Commission would like to see the government pursue genuine and sustainable regional efforts.

“Such efforts should be aimed at increasing opportunities for safe, regular migration and enhancing the ability of refugees to access protection across the region.”

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Media contact: Louise McDermott (02) 9284 9851 or 0419 258 597