Australia’s immigration minister defends new measures
SYDNEY, Australia — Australia’s immigration minister, Peter Dutton, has defended a move to cut off financial and housing support to up to 100 asylum seekers brought from its offshore camps for medical treatment, reigniting debate over the country’s detention policy.
In a radio interview, Dutton accused asylum seekers of using medical transfers to manipulate the system and as a way to escape detention on Australia’s offshore camps on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea and on the island nation of Nauru.
“I think people believe in a fair go, but this is ripping the system off,” he said in an interview with the conservative radio host Alan Jones. “We’ve given notice to almost 60 of them to say that the game is up and we aren’t going to provide you with the housing — the welfare will stop,” Dutton said, referring to asylum seekers.
News of the changes was first reported Sunday by The Age, which said that under new visa conditions, up to 100 asylum seekers brought to Australia for medical treatment would, as of Monday, no longer receive financial support of about 400 Australian dollars, or about $315, a month. The asylum seekers would also have three weeks to leave government-supported housing and find new places to live.
“You will be expected to support yourself in the community until departing Australia,” said a letter by the Immigration Department that was leaked to The Age.
Dutton defended the tough new measures during his interview Monday, saying that asylum seekers who sought legal help to remain in Australia after receiving medical treatment were taking unfair advantage of the system. “The medical assistance has been provided and there is no need for them to remain in Australia and yet, through these legal moves, they’ve found themselves a way,” he said.
Up to 400 asylum seekers and their children living in Australia on medical transfers could be affected under the new visa, according the The Age. Known as the “final departure Bridging E Visa,” it reportedly grants asylum seekers the right to work, which they were barred from doing previously.
A senator with the Australian Greens, Nick McKim, said his party would be seeking advice on how to reverse the decision in the Senate.
In a statement Sunday, McKim said that reversing the decision would hinge on the opposition Labor party, “who have to decide whether they will accept abject cruelty as a policy position.”
The director of legal advocacy with the Human Rights Law Center, Daniel Webb, said the new visa conditions represented a “new low” that would inflict “unimaginable suffering.”