Aus­tralia’s im­mi­gra­tion min­is­ter de­fends new mea­sures

Miami Herald - - FRONT PAGE -

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.”

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