Children granted bridging visas

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has announced that some children and their families, currently being held in asylum seeker detention in Australia, will be released into the community. 

However, the new bridging visa arrangements will not apply to all children currently being held and there will be conditions. For the purpose of this release, ‘children’ are defined as ‘aged under ten’, which represents, we’re told, 150 out of approximately 500. The minister has also been adamant that this new arrangement expressly precludes the 148 children still on Christmas Island and 193 on Nauru. Furthermore, it only applies to children whose detention predates 19 July 2013, the date on which the former Rudd Labor government announced that all new arrivals, by boat, would be sent to offshore detention. Morrison says that the bridging visas will be determined on a case by case basis and that he is confident that a large number of those eligible can be moved into the new visa program before the end of the year.

But there are already 1547 children and their families in community detention, many of whom have no visa or right to work and are required to report regularly to immigration officials. It’s unclear how the new program may affect this large group.

The minister also told the ABC AM program that, “We still have some consultations we have to do with service providers. Because what this announcement does is ensures there’s additional support provided to children under the age of 10 who are released with their families on bridging visas.’’

He further claimed that, “this is the dividend of stopping the boats and the new measure will save tax payers more than $50 million over the forward estimates.’’


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Opinion: Tokenism refined to an artform

In the last two days we’ve been treated to the unprecedented spectacle of Immigration Minister Scott Morrison being all over the media like a rash.

This is the same member of the Abbott cabinet who has refined stonewalling to a fine art. A man whose speciality is to call ‘non press conferences’ at which the baying media elicit no more than the now predictable clichés of ‘no comment’ and ‘operational matters’. Is this the same minister who has consistently treated with disdain the media and, more importantly the Australian electorate, to whom he should be beholden for his high office and whose interests he should respect? Has he experienced some strange epiphany? Hardly!

In announcing, very publicly, an apparent easing of the long-running internment conditions for some younger children and their families, Morrison is plainly responding to the ever-widening opposition to this particularly ugly aspect of the Government’s policy on asylum seekers who arrive ‘illegally’ by boat.

While hailed by his parliamentary colleagues, including the prime minister, as the very epitome of a strong, effective minister, Morrison is accumulating an impressive array of opponents far beyond the official parliamentary opposition. His attempts to reintroduce temporary protection visas have been rejected by the High Court, as has his new arbitrary definition for assessing the risk of persecution for refugees returned to the countries from which they fled.

The President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Prof Gillian Triggs, who recently visited Christmas Island, reported ‘an unprecedented rate of self- harm among children and that the ‘desperation is palpable.’ Perhaps even more relevant is that consistent thorn in the Abbott Government’s side, the post 1 July 2014 Senate and, more specifically, the crossbench.

Morrison has been blocked by the crossbench, notably, the three Palmer United Party senators who have, thus far, complied with their leader Clive Palmer’s very public opposition to detaining any children in detention, both in Australia and offshore. So is the modest concession of releasing some young children and their families intended to extract an agreement from the PUP senators?

We can hardly be blamed for being sceptical about Morrison’s true motivation in so publicly grandstanding over such a belated, partial moderation in his policy on child asylum seekers. When you’ve spent so long treating with contempt the Australian electorate and hiding behind the military to avoid any scrutiny of your actions, then the minister shouldn’t expect us to passively accept his latest ‘spin.’

What do you think? Should we give the minister credit for easing the conditions for some young children and their families? Or, is this just a cynical exercise to placate some of his growing number of critics? Or is it aimed at persuading the Senate to allow him to reintroduce temporary protection visas?

Written by David Fallick