CHURCH groups were canvassed about the government’s tough new asylum seeker policies, including whether banning asylum seekers living in the community from working would be sufficiently punitive to prevent others from making the journey to Australia, sources say.
The discussions reportedly took place in recent weeks, creating an ethical dilemma for groups working to improve the lives of asylum seekers.
The groups were believed to be highly uncomfortable with being asked to advise the department on measures that would make the lives of asylum seekers more difficult.
The government on Wednesday revealed how its ”no advantage” policy would work for asylum seekers who came to Australia by boat after August 13, and who were not sent to Nauru or Manus Island.
With more than 7500 people arriving since August 13, and the detention network under great strain, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said thousands of people would be released into the community while their asylum claims were processed. But anyone who arrived after August 13 would be unable to work for as long as five years, and would be eligible only for 89 per cent of the lowest level of the dole – about $440 a fortnight for singles – plus $107 in fortnightly rent assistance.
Pamela Curr, from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, said the discussions had presented an ethical dilemma to church organisations. ”What’s been happening … is that when the Immigration Department realised that the offshore horror show wasn’t stopping the boats, they’ve been casting around for ways in which to make life in Australia more uncomfortable, frightening, and verging on persecution,” Ms Curr said.
The discussions were confirmed by two other sources, but a spokesman for the Department of Immigration said: ”It’s not our practice to comment on discussions that may or may not have taken place between DIAC [the Department of Immigration and Citizenship] and other organisations.”
He confirmed, however, that people sent to Nauru and Manus Island will be processed in a separate scheme to those on Australian soil. ”The ones that are already on Nauru and Manus, and the ones that will be transferred there in the future, their claims for protection will be processed within those countries.”
With DANIEL FLITTON
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.