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Democrats: alternatives for asylum seekers available now.

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Senator Andrew Bartlett Australian Democrats’ Immigration Spokesperson

31 January 2002 MEDIA RELEASE 02/031

Democrats: alternatives for asylum seekers available now The Howard Government is deceiving Australians when it says there are no alternatives to its policy of enforced detention of asylum seekers, say the Australian Democrats.

The Democrats’ Immigration spokesperson, Senator Andrew Bartlett, said the Government had been receiving advice for years, but its refusal to listen is about playing politics - not about achieving good outcomes for Australia and the refugees.

“While other detention centres are being completed, there are facilities already available at minimal cost to Australian taxpayers, such as Tasmania’s Brighton Safe Haven,” said Senator Bartlett.

“The former army barracks became home to refugees from war-torn Kosovo in 1999, and could easily become home to asylum seekers in 2002.

“Mayor of Brighton in Southern Tasmania, Cr Tony Foster, has indicated that his Council is willing to house up to 700 people. Also, a number of community groups throughout Australia, with expertise in helping asylum seekers, have offered to assist in housing and caring for refugees while their claims are assessed.”

“The Government continues to ignore these offers and refuses to consider viable and constructive solutions.

“The Immigration Department is reportedly needing an additional $170 million to meet the ongoing costs of processing asylum seekers until the end of this financial year. This is outrageous, particularly considering there are cheaper and more humane alternatives available to the Government,” Senator Bartlett said.

“It is more important than ever that the Democrats’ long standing call for a broad-ranging Senate Inquiry into all aspects of the Government’s Refugee Policy be supported.

“The Democrats’ stance received a welcomed boost yesterday with Senator Bob Brown joining previous calls for a broad-ranging Senate Inquiry,” concluded Senator Bartlett.

For further information contact: Senator Andrew Bartlett on 0418 743 789