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Monday, 19 October 2015
Page: 11485

Asylum Seekers

Dear Dr Jensen

Thank you for your letter of 18 August 2015 concerning a petition recently submitted for consideration by the Standing Committee on Petitions (Petition Number 1053/1543), concerning the Australian Government's asylum seeker policies. I appreciate the time you have taken to bring this matter to my attention.

The Petition requested the closure of regional processing centres (RPCs), the release of all children from detention, a limit to detention of 90 days for health checks and processing of refugee status, as well as an end to Temporary Protection visas (TPVs).

In recent years the number of illegal maritime arrivals (IMAs) to Australia has significantly increased. This increase has undermined the integrity of Australia's migration and humanitarian programmes. People smugglers profit from the trade of people across borders throughout our region. It is for these reasons that the Australian Government is committed to working with other countries throughout our region to stem the flow of irregular maritime travel and to end people smuggling.

As a result of Operation Sovereign Borders, there has been a very substantial and sustained reduction in maritime ventures attempting to reach Australia. By focusing on detecting and intercepting IMAs, and supporting regional processing and resettlement of asylum seekers, people smugglers have been denied a product to sell, dramatically reducing the number of lives being lost and restoring integrity to the migration programme. The Government remains committed to its asylum seeker policies, including regional processing and the use of TPVs rather than Permanent Protection visas.

Updates on regional processing are provided monthly on the Department of Immigration and Border Protection's website at: http://newsroom.bordergov.au/channels/media-releases/releases/.

In regards to immigration detention in Australia, the Government views this as an essential component of strong border control. Detention is not limited by a set timeframe but is dependent upon a number of factors, including identity determination, progress with visa status resolution and individual circumstances relating to health, character or security matters.

Immigration detention is subject to both administrative and judicial review, and to full parliamentary scrutiny for accountability. The length and the conditions of detention are subject to regular review by senior Department officers and the Commonwealth Ombudsman. The Ombudsman is required by the Migration Act 1958 to assess the appropriateness of the immigration detention arrangements for each person detained for more than two years. The Department sends the Ombudsman a report relating to each person in detention for more than two years, and every six months thereafter.

The Government has reduced the detention population by approximately 90 per cent by placing eligible IMAs in the community on bridging visas or in community detention while they await the resolution of their status.

As at 31 July 2015, there were fewer than 110 children who arrived as IMAs in held detention in Australia, compared with a peak of 1,992 children in July 2013.

The Government is working to reduce this number even further, although in some cases there are national security or character issues that might be a barrier to the placement of their family in the community. Cases are reviewed regularly and further releases into the community are anticipated.

With regards to TPVs and the new Safe Haven Enterprise visa (SHEV) for people who arrived in Australia illegally, it is the Government's view that these visas uphold the integrity and efficiency of Australia's protection processing system. They also allow the Government to re-commence processing asylum claims from people who arrived in Australia illegally, while at the same time guaranteeing that people smugglers do not have a 'permanent protection visa product' to sell to those who are thinking of travelling illegally to Australia.

Thank you for bringing this petition to my attention.

from the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Mr Dutton