Asylum Seekers Living in the Australian Community: A Casework and Reception Approach, Asylum Seeker Project, Hotham Mission, Melbourne

Article excerpt

Abstract

In Australia, asylum seekers either are detained in immigration detention centres or, depending upon their mode of entry into Australia and the status of their application for protection, live in the community, often in a state of abject poverty. Hotham Mission's Asylum Seeker Project (ASP), a Melbourne-based non-governmental organization (NGO), is unique in Australia in its comprehensive work in housing and supporting asylum seekers in the community, particularly those released from detention. The work of the Asylum Seeker Project illustrates that it is possible, through the application of a comprehensive reception casework system, to adequately support asylum seekers in the community with their welfare needs and to prepare asylum seekers for all immigration outcomes. The Project thus provides a compassionate model of reception support and a viable alternative to immigration detention.

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Resume

En Australie, les demandeurs d'asile sont soit detenus dans des centres de detention de l'immigration, ou, dependant leur mode d'arrivee en Australie et la situation de leur demande de protection, habitent dans la communaute--souvent dans des conditions de denuement extreme. Le << Asylum Seeker Project >> ('Projet des demandeurs du droit d'asile') du Hotham Mission, une organisation non gouvernementale (ONG) basee a Melbourne, est unique en son genre en Australie, du fait de ses services complets visant a loger et a soutenir les demandeurs d'asile dans la communaute, tout specialement ceux qui sont relaches des centres de detention. Le travail accompli par le << Asylum Seekers Project >> demontre qu'il est possible--en utilisant un systeme complet d'accueil individualise--d'assister de facon effective les demandeurs d'asile vivant dans la communaute avec leurs besoins sociaux et de preparer les demandeurs d'asile a faire face a toutes les eventualites possibles a leurs demandes d'immigration. Ce faisant, le Projet fournit un module de ce qui peut etre accompli en matiere de soutien d l'accueil et une alternative viable a la detention.

Australian Policy Regarding Asylum Seekers

Australia's policy response to asylum seekers and refugees varies depending upon the way in which refugees and asylum seekers enter or are chosen to enter the country. Australia maintains a focus on immigration control, reflected in specific categories and quotas determined for immigrants and refugees in addition to a focus on border protection. Australian policy ensures that there are different visa classes and consequently different welfare entitlements for refugees and humanitarian entrants who are selected for settlement by the government, for people who enter on a legal Australian visa and subsequently apply for asylum, and for those who enter Australian territory seeking asylum without legal documentation.

Approximately 12,000 refugees are accepted each year. Those who are selected "offshore" for settlement are generally eligible for full welfare, housing, and education entitlements. Under Australia's Migration Act (1992), those who arrive without a valid visa are immediately placed in detention, where they remain for the entire duration of their visa application. Due to delays in processing and the often-lengthy process of appeal, many who seek asylum without valid Australian visas are detained for months or years on end. Also, if their application is rejected and the government is unable to remove them to their home country, the applicants generally remain in detention until removal can occur.

Those who arrive on a valid visa and later apply for asylum in Australia live in the community on limited, if any, income support. There currently do not exist any government funded community-based reception centres or housing for asylum seekers in Australia.

Asylum Seekers in the Community

There are approximately 8,000 asylum seekers living in the community on bridging visas. …