Bridging Visas To Nowhere
By Nick OlleNovember 1, 2013
Thousands of asylum seekers currently in limbo on bridging visas in Australia may be sent back into detention.
As many as 13,000 asylum seekers on bridging visas in Australia are to be put back into detention by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP), according to Global Mail sources.
Refugee advocates say this figure is likely to refer to asylum seekers who have received a negative initial decision to their request for protection by the Australian government.
Immigration minister Scott Morrison said “there have been no decisions taken as yet as to who might go back into detention”.
But in response to questions from The Global Mail at the weekly briefing on Operation Sovereign Borders on November 1, the minister added that the government was following through on its pre-election promise to “completely revise the assessment process and to re-task the way that the detention network operated”.
“Once we get into our new assessment phase for those who have received a negative decision at some point, that should be [the onshore detention network’s] predominant purpose,” Morrison said.
Operation Sovereign Borders
Paul Power, CEO of the Refugee Council of Australia, says, “What we do know is, the government plans to bring asylum seekers back into detention if they get a negative decision.
“It is unclear to us at this stage if it will be after an initial negative decision – or after a negative decision is confirmed on review.”
The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre’s Pamela Curr says: “It is likely that there are 13,000 people in the community who the department would term as being on a ‘negative pathway’ but who are in fact awaiting a final outcome or a court decision.”
Such a large number would account for about a third of what Morrison called “the legacy caseload ... of 33,000 people [in] community detention, bridging visas, held detention and formal detention.”
Power noted that, “If there were to be large numbers of negative decisions in a short period, the government would have difficulty housing these people in the detention system as it is currently is.”
For those asylum seekers yet to be assessed and who are already in the community, Morrison said there was “no suggestion that, until their assessment might commence, that they’d be brought back into detention.
“There’s no suggestion of that, but we’ll be making more announcements about those issues,” he said.
During the election campaign, the Coalition called for a new, fast-track assessment and removal process based on the United Kingdom’s system. The Coalition estimated that under the system, refugee protection claims could be assessed and resolved – and unsuccessful asylum seekers deported – within three months.
Unsuccessful asylum seekers would be sent to Christmas Island pending their deportation, the Coalition said, adding that “voluntary removal options will also be offered at Christmas Island”.