Australia denies refugee policy failure
SYDNEY (AFP) - Australia denied on Thursday its policies to combat people-smuggling have failed as a decision to release asylum-seekers into the community with little help or support was blasted as "a new low".
Canberra is struggling with a record influx of asylum-seekers that is overwhelming its offshore camps. More than 7,500 have arrived since the Labor government launched a harsh new offshore processing policy for boatpeople in August, swamping capacity in Pacific camps on Nauru and Papua New Guinea.
To resolve the impasse Immigration Minister Chris Bowen announced on Wednesday that some asylum-seekers would be released into the community on severely restricted visas that would still apply even if they gain refugee status. The temporary visas will ban them from working while offering scant financial support or rights to family reunion.
It is part of a "no advantage" approach by the government to ensure that those who pay people-smugglers get no greater benefits than those who wait years for resettlement in United Nations camps.