The unseemly squabble between Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott over offshore processing of asylum seekers ignores an unspoken but inescapable reality: one in four refugee claims are currently decided onshore, with asylum seekers residing in the community. Families are monitored and unaccompanied children closely supervised, but unlike those held behind razor wire in remote detention facilities, they are free to come and go.
Despite all the bluster and tough talk about stopping the boats and breaking the people smuggling business model, Australia has been quietly doing what most Western countries (including the United States and Britain) do: processing asylum seekers in the community with minimal social discord.
And there is capacity in the system to process far more in this way, perhaps 50 per cent of current claims. Both the Red Cross and the Immigration Department, who oversee the bipartisan policy of community detention for families and children, believe about 2000 of the 4110-plus asylum seeker claims could be handled this way — via redwolf.newsvine.com