Madeleine CooreySydney. Australia said Monday vulnerable asylum-seekers including children would be moved out of detention centers and into the community, easing tough policies after facilities came under major strain.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the coalition government would move “significant numbers” of minors and families into community-based accommodation in a more “humane” approach, with children obliged to attend school.
“This is especially important for children, for whom protracted detention can have negative impacts on their development and mental health,” Gillard said.
“I don’t think it is the Australian way to have kids behind razor wire in the hope that that is a deterrent,” she added.
Gillard said several hundred children and families would be moved from detention compounds by the middle of next year, without giving more precise figures. They will be under strict curfews and have regular checks, she said.
Australia will also build two new detention centres to help ease pressure on facilities which are struggling to deal with a surge of around 100 rickety boats carrying about 5,000 poor migrants this year, officials said.
The main center at remote Christmas Island is so full that some people are sleeping in tents, and there have been riots and protests by inmates in Sydney and Darwin, including one Fijian who leaped to his death.
Gillard’s government, which relies on support from the left-leaning Greens, is currently in talks with East Timor and Indonesia, a major transit point, for a regional asylum-seeker hub to help stem the flow of immigrants.
The new approach follows years of tough policies including former prime minister John Howard’s so-called “Pacific Solution” of housing immigrants in remote foreign camps.