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Community detention a more humane option

Wednesday June 29, 2011


Australian Red Cross will continue to work with not for profit and community organisations across Australia as we hope to move many more asylum seeker families and unaccompanied minors into community-based detention over the coming months.
Red Cross welcomes today's announcement by the Minister for Immigration The Hon. Chris Bowen that within the coming days 62% of asylum seeker children will have been moved from secured detention facilities and arrangements into community detention. That means there will be 1203 people in community detention: 615 adults and 588 children. Australian Red Cross has been leading the rollout of the community detention program, with the help of partner not for profit and community organisations from across Australia.

We also welcome news that Darwin's Asti Hotel and Virginia Palms in Brisbane will no longer be used as alternative detention facilities.

'Community-based detention for asylum seekers is a humane and sustainable alternative to the use of secured detention facilities and arrangements,' said Australian Red Cross' Director of Services and International Operations Michael Raper. 'But let's not forget that more asylum seekers remain in secured detention facilities and arrangements across Australia, and moving vulnerable people in detention into more suitable arrangements as soon as possible must remain a priority. Evidence shows that when people spend long stints in immigration detention facilities not only does their health suffer, but also their ability to cope and their psychological well being.'

Red Cross constantly monitors the conditions in immigration detention facilities across Australia through its Humanitarian Observers Program, and regularly reports to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship and the Government with findings and recommendations.

It is also important to keep this issue in perspective and remember that compared to other refugee-hosting countries Australia receives a very small number of asylum applications: last year Australia received 8,250 asylum applications, just 2% of the 358,840 applications received across 44 industrialised nations,' Mr Raper said.

The success of the expanded community detention program supports an Australian Red Cross survey last year that found most Australians were sympathetic to the plight of refugees, with eight out of 10 people saying they would help a refugee to settle into their community.

'We work with people made vulnerable through migration and those seeking protection, irrespective of their legal status or mode of arrival; people whose survival, dignity, physical or mental health is under threat. There is little doubt refugees and asylum seekers are among the most vulnerable people in our society, having often fled persecution and threats of death, and having little or no social support in Australia,' Mr Raper said.

Media contacts:
For media enquiries or to arrange interviews contact Red Cross media adviser Kim Batchelor on 0457 542 113 or