Federal Government introduces limited use of bridging visas

11-Feb-2012 The Federal Government will allow some refugee and asylum seekers who have arrived by boat to live in the community on bridging visas while their refugee claims are assessed.

In his announcement of the shift in policy in October 2011, Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen MP, said the initiative was part of a new approach to asylum seeker management.

The first group of “irregular maritime arrivals” (IMAs), mostly single Afghani and Sri Lankan men, were released into the community last November.

Eligible detainees will have to undergo health, security and identity checks in order to be considered for community placement on bridging visas. Initial priority for release will go to those who have spent the greatest time in detention.

Asylum seekers on bridging visas will have the right to work and support themselves, and will also have access to necessary health services.

The Minister also announced that the government will move to a single protection visa process for both boat and air arrivals, using the current onshore arrangements for application and independent review through the Refugee Review Tribunal (RRT) system. “It is only prudent to introduce a single, consistent and efficient process that will continue to afford all people using the system access to judicial review,” he said.

The government, however, “remains committed to maintaining a mandatory detention system, including using mandatory detention on Christmas Island for reception and initial checks.” 

Click here
to access the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship’s November 25, 2011, media release.