Friday, 23 May 2008

Visas offered to 31 in long detention

The federal government is offering visas to 31 people who have been in immigration detention for more than two years.

Immigration Minister Chris Evans said another 24 long-term detainees had been or would be deported after he decided they had no valid reason to stay.

The detainees are among 72 people held for more than two years whose cases Senator Evans has personally reviewed.

Senator Evans said his decision was underpinned by the view that indefinite detention is unacceptable.

"Long-term detention cannot be the default outcome for difficult immigration cases," Senator Evans said.

"The Howard government left these cases in the too-hard basket and, consequently, people languished in immigration detention with no end in sight."

He said the 31 people allowed to stay had been given visas or were being considered for visas pending health and security checks.

Five of the 24 refused permission to stay in Australia had already left, while steps were being taken to fast-track the deportation of the remaining 19.

The status of another 17 detainees could not be immediately resolved because they were subject to ongoing proceedings, Senator Evans said.

Among those cases, people deemed to be of high risk will remain in immigration detention.

The others will be moved to immigration residential housing facilities or into community detention until their cases are resolved.

Evans seeking to 'fast-track' detainee processing

Immigration Minister Chris Evans has accused the previous Government of allowing long-term detainees to languish in immigration detention centres.

Senator Evans has finished his review of the 72 people who have been in detention for longer than two years.

Thirty-one of them have been granted visas, 24 are in the process of being deported, and the cases of another 17 are still to be resolved.

The cases of another 17 will take longer to resolve.

The Minister says unlike the former Government, he has taken action.

"The previous government didn't seem to be very effective in actually getting people removed and tended to just leave them in detention," he said.

"I'm certainly keen to resolve their cases as well and so of the 24 due for removal, five have already gone and I'm seeking to fast-track the others."

Senator Evans says 33 of the detainees are from China.

"There's a range of claims - obviously some of them have claimed Falun Gong type connections, others have just had a range of other issues," he said.

"I don't want to go into each personal case but we've made an assessment that I ought to use my intervention powers to grant them a visa."


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