New report urges Australia to rethink refugee program

26 July 2012

Australia's Human Rights Commission has urged the federal government to make immediate changes to Australia's refugee program. The commission released their latest report this week calling for the government to create more opportunities for community placement for thousands of asylum seekers now in detention.

The report collected data from recent visits to detention centres and compared it to other countries that release asylum seekers into the community much faster than Australia. For instance, in Canada, some are released on a bond, which they would pay back if they breach conditions. And in Sweden, asylum seekers are often released to community housing within a week.

Michael Raper from the Australian Red Cross, agrees with the recommendations, claiming that the current system is costly and harmful.

"The vast majority of people that we're looking after in community placements on bridging visas end up getting a protection visa," he said. "So why would we lock them up for long periods, disturb their mental health, make sure that they're not ready to go into the Australian community at the time they ultimately get their protection visa?"

The report makes eight recommendations, including that the Australia carry out its security checks on all asylum seekers immediately and try to find a less restrictive form of detention. Other recommendations included:
The Commission claims that Australia is international laws by detaining some people for up to two years. However, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen says his department is processing asylum seekers three times faster than it did a year ago and that the Government has reduced the average number of days people spend in detention.

"It's 93 days on average now compared to an average of 265 days about 12 months ago," Bowen said.

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