The collision between the international asylum system and Australia’s highly developed and managed migration system has played out through detention centres, in northern waters and in offshore processing centres. The latest area of concern and contention is asylum seekers in the community for extended periods on Bridging Visa E, without work rights, income support or access to Medicare. Refugee advocates have lobbied parliamentarians and campaigned on behalf of these asylum seekers through the media. A departmental review commenced in 2004 was supposed to bring clarity and flexibility into the bridging visa framework. One reason for the Government’s delay in announcing any changes to the bridging visa system could be that the Government is experiencing difficulty in reconciling its policy imperatives of protecting the border and regulating entry into the Australian community, with the demands and expectations of advocates of asylum seekers on Bridging Visa E.
This brief looks at the issues and the arguments, and provides some international comparisons. It concludes that it is likely that more support will be extended to asylum seekers in situations of need in the community. However, advocates’ more exaggerated claims and demands could be counterproductive, in that they are hastening the demise of the international asylum system.