Australia Releases Detained Asylum Seekers

In a major reversal of past policy, Australia has begun releasing asylum seekers who have arrived by boat into the community.

Mandatory detention for them was the policy, adopted as a ‘deterrent’ by the previous conservative government.

Those released will have the right to work and access health services. Priority for community release under the new bridging visa program will go to asylum seekers who have spent the longest time in detention.

Boat arrivals will also be treated like others who arrive by plane and allowed access to the Tribunal which considers asylum cases. The special rules for boat arrivals saw decisions being consistently overturned on appeal, showing their unfairness.

It is only because of a High Court decision in December last year that boat arrivals could access judicial review at all.

Another legal decision has forced the government to change tack, the one which spiked the so-called ‘Malaysia solution’ where all boat arrivals would be sent to camps in that country.

Australia’s High Court decision was based on a lack of protections for refugees in Malaysia, where beatings of them have been documented in the media and with Malaysia not being a signatory to the Refugee Convention.

Mandatory detention has come under increasing pressure, with moves made earlier to release children and a leading Australian current affairs program documenting the mental harm caused by long-term detention only last month.

Richard Towle, Pacific UNHCR representative, told ABC:

What we’re talking about is people who are claiming asylum and whether they remain in detention or go into the community whilst their claims are looked at and we’ve always said that it’s much fairer and more humane to allow people who don’t pose any threats to the community or security risks to the country to be released into the wider community where they can live as normally as possible while their claims are be assessed, that reduces the pressure on the immigration system, it’s cheaper and it reduces the high risk of what we’ve seen recently of self-harm and suicides and very damaging consequences at immigration detention centres. So we believe all round it’s a very positive development. That’s an approach that’s adopted by most asylum countries around the world and we’re very pleased that Australia is moving in that direction.

This is by far the widest practice by countries in the industrialised world, the whole scale and widespread use of mandatory detention for asylum seekers is not used by other countries by and large and that’s why we’re very pleased that Australia is moving away from those policies heading towards ones that are based on individualised risk assessment, so that by far and the large number of asylum seekers are allowed to remain in the community. They don’t pose any threat, they’re able ideally to look after themselves. Those with work permits will be able to find work and be self-sufficient and have much better psychological support in the community, rather than in detention.

Related stories:

Mental Harm Caused by Prolonged Immigration Detention

Russia Starving Detained Migrants

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Picture by The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre


benoit m.
benoit m.4 years ago

we don't have enough resources in Australia to increase our population, let alone to people who are inclined to have very large families. it is not a question of being cruel, but it would be best to fix the problem, i.e. the reason these people are fleeing their countries, instead of encouraging them to come to Australia and continue to populate. (often they come from countries that are already highly overpopulated). I wish we would give the tiny islands off indonesia their independence or give them to Indonesia (the populations their often don't speak English or have any connection to the rest of Australia). This way, no-one would be making the long voyage to the rest of Australia.

Nick J.
Nick J.4 years ago

Ann W, I'm sorry but WHO thinks Australia is "supposed to be a 'rich' country"? Also, I didn't read anything in this article about free mobile phones.

Paul canning
Paul canning4 years ago

Kye J. - fleeing and claiming asylum in another country is not illegal. That is just a fact. It is an international right which both they and you possess. You can call them 'illegal' until the cows come home but that does not make it correct.

Ann W. - you ask all these questions about who these people are yet you don't appear interested in finding out. Why not watch the SBS documentary which tried to show people like you exactly why people risk their lives on boats to get to Australia?

Kye J.
michelle t.4 years ago

Paul C. We Australians as very aware that these invaders are ILLEGAL!!!
Paul I think we are well aware of what is going on in our own country.Would you like to provide your address and we can direct these illegals to you instead of to us in Australia.

Paul canning
Paul canning4 years ago

The Australians making inaccurate statements here (i.e. that asylum seekers are 'illegal') should watch this and then come back and tell us if it changed their mind.

Barbara G.
Barbara G.4 years ago

Sure sounds like the good ole USA. The government has refused for decades to enforce immigration law because the farmers and businesses wanted cheap labor so now there is at least 25 to 30 million illegal aliens in this country. Every town and city has supporters that march in the streets demanding amnesty for the thousands that have sneaked into the country or used a visa and didn't go home. If this isn't stopped Australia will look just like a lot of our larger cities, more like Calcutta than the US.

Ann W.
Ann W.4 years ago

A parent/s put them there to travel alone. Why? Because they knew gullible Australians will take the kids in and then because of our family reunion program, the whole lot of them will eventually be allowed in. A lot of Australians can't afford more than 1 or 2 kids. One 'refugee' woman now living in Brisbane is expecting her 15th child. One family had 6 kids whilst living in a detention centre in Malaysia! And now the Australian taxpayer, who has to limit his own family, is supporting theirs. The word has got around that Australia is 'easy' and we are being inundated. We are supposed to be a 'rich' country yet we are flogging off our assets and our farm land to any other country with a bob or two to spare to pay our bills. And China is one of the countries buying us up, with its eye on our farm land. We are losing our assets, our heritage and our identity.

Ann W.
Ann W.4 years ago

I also am very concerned about this and it will open the flood gates further to even more illegal boats coming in. We have our own people sleeping on the streets yet these illegals have been accommodated in 4-star motels here in Brisbane. The Malaysian solution was for Australia to take 4,000 from Malaysian detention centres and they would take the next 800 of our boat people. Australia had to pay all costs. A great deal for Malaysia. Although the deal was blocked in the Courts, we still get to take the 4,000! These people have always had access to the legal system and part of the reason they are in detention for so long is that if they are found unacceptable, they appeal and appeal again against deportation. They have set fire to and destroyed so much and the Australian taxpayer gets to replace stuff over and over. So many of them are fit, young Afghans. Why are young Australians dying to try and bring peace and stability to that country when its own citizens will not fight for it but make their way across several countries to hop on a leaky boat and come here illegally, paying thousands of dollars to the boat owner? Why not buy a plane ticket? Because then you will need papers. By coming in a boat you need no identification. We do not know whose these people are and they are going to be released into the community! There was outrage about sending unaccompanied minors back. These kids did not hop on a boat themselves. A parent/s put them there to travel al

Kye J.
michelle t.4 years ago

As an Australian in line with the views of most other Australians I am anything but impressed.There is legal entry and illegal entry and this sucks!!!Free health care, free accomodation, free mobile phone, social security payments to name just a free.Charity begins at home.Australian Tax payers don't get these benfits

Lilithe Magdalene

This is wonderful news! I watched the documentary on the detention system, and it was heartbreaking. I am so glad Australia is doing this - may it prove to be the most human an successful way of helping asylum seekers and be an example for countries everywhere!