Morrison slammed over asylum seeker comments


The Greens' immigration spokeswoman, Sarah Hanson-Young, says Federal Opposition's Immigration spokesman Scott Morrison has tarnished the standing of all asylum-seekers, based upon the alleged actions of one man in Sydney.

There's been strident criticism of comments from the Federal Opposition's Immigration spokesman, Scott Morrison, calling for police to be notified and behaviour protocols to be set when asylum-seekers move into the community.

Mr Morrison's remarks followed the arrest of a Sri Lankan asylum-seeker on a bridging visa, charged over an alleged sexual assault on a female student at Macquarie University in Sydney.

The suggestions have been strongly criticised by the Gillard Government, refugee advocacy groups and from a fellow Liberal MP.

The Greens' immigration spokeswoman, Sarah Hanson-Young, says Mr Morrison has tarnished the standing of all asylum-seekers, based upon the alleged actions of one man in Sydney.

Scott Morrison says the case highlights the need for a review of the current community detention arrangements, which presently cover 8700 asylum-seekers.

He has called for an immediate freeze on the granting of further bridging visas. Mr Morrison has also called for the police and members of a local community to be informed when an asylum-seeker is moved into community detention.

Senator Hanson-Young says asylum-seekers living in a community setting are already required to report regularly on their whereabouts to the Department of Immigration.

"This whole idea of having to establish behaviour protocols, as the Coalition has called for, is ludicrous. We have behaviour protocols. It's called the law.

"It's called the criminal code. It is exactly what courts use when dealing with individual incidents and everybody, whether you're an Australian citizen or not, whether you live in the city or the country, regardless of what colour your skin is, has to abide by them," she said.

A spokeswoman for the Immigration Department has confirmed that asylum-seekers living in a community setting are currently subject to strict checks on their whereabouts and activities.

The spokeswoman says while the asylum-seekers are free to live where they choose, they must provide details of any changes in their address within two working days.

She says they are also required to regularly report back to the department as part of the conditions of their bridging visa. Meanwhile, Mr Morrison's comments have also been strongly criticised by Federal Liberal backbencher, Russell Broadbent.

Mr Broadbent says the rule of law should apply to all people equally, and asylum-seekers should not be set apart. However Liberal Senate leader Eric Abetz says he believes Mr Morrison's suggestions would help to promote greater social cohesion.

"When they're placing people next door to you who might not have appropriate or, I withdraw that word, the language skills that most people would expect, to be able to engage in the community, " Mr Abetz said.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard says the Coalition has highlighted how divided it is on asylum-seeker policy through its response to Mr Morrison's comments.

A private company that provided accommodation to asylum-seekers at two Sydney university campuses has since cancelled its contract. Campus Living Villages cancelled its contract with the Red Cross covering Macquarie University and the University of Western Sydney campuses.

There were nearly 60 asylum-seekers from Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Bangladesh living on the two campuses. Campus Living Villages says the move was made because it needs to make the safety, security and wellbeing of its residents its top priority.

However a company spokeswoman says it will now work alongside the Red Cross to find alternative accommodation for the asylum-seekers. Some refugee advocacy groups have accused the company of over-reacting.

The Refugee Council of Australia believes there is a danger of stigmatising all asylum-seekers because of the alleged actions of one man who still needs to face charges in court.

The council's Chief Executive Officer, Paul Power, believes Mr Morrison is guilty of inflaming public prejudice towards refugees and asylum-seekers for political gain.

"We're dealing with a situation of quite vulnerable people going through a very difficult phase in their lives and this sort of attention and politicking between the major parties is completely unhelpful and really doesn't do Australia proud," Mr Power said.

A group that helps resettle asylum-seekers says it believes there are likely to be fewer social problems when asylum-seekers are billeted by individuals, rather than in large hostels or in group accommodation.

The Australian Homestay Network has helped move more than 600 asylum seekers from immigration detention centres into community placements with volunteers.

The Network's Chief Executive, David Bycroft, believes local communities are more accepting of asylum-seekers when they are billeted to stay with individuals or families. However he says it is also important not to rush to conclusions in the Macquarie University case.

"And just because there is an incident here, we've got to review the situation and how it was caused. And I still put it down to when you've got a lot of people in one area, you create unnecessary attention to it. When you decentralise asylum-seekers out into the community, we're getting very successful results," Ms Bycroft said.

Source SBS

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