It seems that, in mourning the passing of the Coalition federal government, the Australian has picked up the dirty baton of spinning stories designed to inflame anti-asylum seeker sentiment.
Paige Taylor authored a story about the government’s decision to move 10 unaccompanied minors from Christmas Island to Australia for processing on compassionate grounds in Thursday’s Australian
The story was headed: No visas, boys? Welcome to Australia
Taylor’s story included the incorrect implication that the Howard government had not acted in this manner themselves – which the Immigration Department corrected in a later story, pointing out that there had been 61 previous occasions under the Howard government when asylum-seekers from detention facilities on Nauru or Manus islands had been allowed to stay on the Australian mainland for processing after going there for medical or legal reasons, including to give birth or attend court. Kevin Rudd denies change in asylum policy
Taylor also implied that the move “that coincided with the arrival of yet another boat of asylum-seekers at the Indian Ocean territory last night” was to address overcrowding on Christmas Island – echoing Sharman’ Stone’s position – without attribution:
“…we’ve simply been told, ’shock, panic, let’s move some people off quickly before they’re processed and make way for the next boatload hovering on the horizon’.” Kevin Rudd denies change in asylum policy
It is interesting to compare headlines from other sources on the same matter:
Immigration first: Afghans allowed onto mainland without visas from the Macquarie Network’s Live News
No visas needed for 10 asylum seekers from Bigpond News (Telstra)
And the least inflammatory of all: Child Refugees enter Australia Without Visas from Embrace Australia, “the number one website for people interested in Australia immigration and those who simply love Australia”.
UPDATE: Media release from Senator Evans
Policy on irregular maritime arrivals remains firm
The Rudd Government is not changing its policy on asylum seekers.
Under the Rudd Government, unaccompanied children are processed as a priority.
Ten unaccompanied children were transferred from Christmas Island to the mainland on 2 September 2009.
This is to enable the department to finalise their cases and provide proper support to this particularly vulnerable group of children.
The children were part of a group who arrived on Christmas Island on 7 May 2009 and they have been undergoing the relevant processing while on Christmas Island.
Their move to the mainland in the final stage of their processing is not a change of Government policy. The department is simply finalising the processing of this particularly vulnerable group of children in an environment where better services can be provided.
They have not been released into the broader community and remain under the care of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship at the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation (MITA) centre.
The Opposition Immigration spokesman Sharman Stone is wrong to claim that their legal processing arrangements and entitlements have changed.
Dr Stone clearly does not understand the legislation introduced by the Howard Government. This makes no change to their legal status whatsoever. They are still offshore entry persons and do not have access to the onshore legal processes.
This is not unprecedented. This is not the first vulnerable group that this or the previous government has moved from offshore to the mainland before their visa status has been finalised. Exceptions have been made for vulnerable people or those with health issues, for example pregnant women or people who are seriously ill. Decisions such as these are made on a case-by-case basis.
The Rudd Government has maintained a system of mandatory detention and excision and made it clear that all irregular maritime arrivals will be detained and processed at Christmas Island while health, identity and security checks are undertaken.
The Rudd Government has also maintained extensive air and sea patrols and allocated $654 million in the Budget for measures to combat people smuggling.