By Catherine Marshall
Jesuit Refugee Service Australia
Jesuit Refugee Service Australia and other church-based organizations say they are ready to support the government’s decision to move children and vulnerable families into community-based accommodation.
JRS says it will be able to house these people when they are released from detention in line with the new government policy. The organization has already sourced a property with the support of a religious order in Sydney which could be used immediately to house unaccompanied children and families.
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen announced last week that the government would begin moving 'significant numbers' of children and vulnerable families out of detention and into community-based accommodation.
The Associate Director of Jesuit Refugee Service Australia, Sr Maryanne Loughry, says the organization has been working with the Council for Immigration Services and Status Resolution (CISSR) to develop a proposal for the minister. Sr Loughry is particularly well-positioned for this task: she serves on CISSR, and has a particular interest in this issue in her role on the Minor's Sub-committee.
'All members of the council have been concerned about the children in detention and we have worked at length with the Department of Immigration and Citizenship to develop an acceptable plan for the children to be released to the community,' says Sr Loughry.
CISSR, with the support of JRS and other agencies, originally submitted a community housing proposal to the former Minister for Immigration, Senator Chris Evans. Following the recent federal election and cabinet shake-up, the proposal was re-submitted to the new minister, Mr Chris Bowen.
'CISSR told the minister that church-based organisations with expertise in sheltering asylum seekers had identified appropriate church property that could be used to house asylum seeking children,' says Sr Loughry.
JRS and other asylum seeker agencies assured the minister that they knew of other available houses and that they had the expertise to assist these children in the community as their refugee status was determined.
'JRS met with a number of church-based organisations and talked with them about how they might best assist us with the live-in care arrangements for the children. All of the church organisations and religious orders that JRS talked with have promised us much support should the government change its policy in relation to mandatory detention.'
Sr Loughry says it was this reassurance by JRS and other agencies that assisted the minister to reconsider the government’s detention policy.
Now, JRS' challenge, with the other agencies, is to bring about this new reality. We look forward to this challenge.'
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