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Community detention success welcomed

Sunday June 19, 2011

As the world marks Refugee Week Australian Red Cross welcomes the success of the community detention program which is based on humanitarian compassion and removes families and children out of the damaging environment of traditional immigration detention arrangements.

'The decision to move the majority of asylum seeker families and children into community-based arrangements has cross party agreement, which sends an important and significant message to the wider Australian community,' said Australian Red Cross Director of Services and International Operations Michael Raper. 'Community-based arrangements for asylum seekers are far more appropriate, humane, sustainable and in line with the values of our society.'

Last October the Government announced it would move the majority of children and families from immigration detention facilities into community-based arrangements while they await the outcome of their visa application. Red Cross has been leading the implementation of the community care arrangements, under the Government's Community Detention Program.

Red Cross has provided support for people in community detention for the past five years, and has cared for hundreds of families and individuals during this time. Red Cross prepares a case management plan for all people in community detention and has engaged a number of other charities and community organisations from across Australia as partners to provide care services under the new arrangements. Red Cross has also recruited volunteers to help support asylum seekers and refugees as they move into the community.

'The success of these new community-based arrangements support the findings of an Australian Red Cross survey conducted last year. That survey found most Australians were sympathetic to the plight of refugees with eight out of 10 people saying they would help a refugee settle into their community, and 83% of people agreeing that those fleeing persecution should be able to take refuge in another country,' said Mr Raper.

Refugee Week (19 to 25 June) is a time to recognise the courage and strength of refugees and to celebrate the rich contribution they make to our society. Refugees come from all walks of life, including professionals, people persecuted for their political beliefs, and mothers and fathers trying to find a safe place for their families.

It is important to keep debate on these issues in perspective and remember that compared with other refugee-hosting countries Australia receives a very small number of asylum applications. Last year Australia received 8,250 applications for asylum, just 2% of the 358,840 applications received across 44 industrialised nations.

'Red Cross works to reduce the vulnerability of migrants and to protect them against abuse, exploitation and denial of their rights,' Mr Raper said. 'We try to give care when it's needed most and there is little doubt that refugees and asylum seekers - who have often fled persecution and threats of death, and who often have little or no social support in Australia - are among the most vulnerable in our society.'

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