Liberal backbencher Russell Broadbent.A LIBERAL backbencher has accused his own party of vilifying asylum seekers, after Coalition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison called for special ”behaviour protocols” for those released into the community and the mandatory notification of police and residents in areas where they were housed.
Mr Morrison said the charging of a Sri Lankan asylum seeker with the alleged indecent assault of a young woman in a Sydney university dorm ”demanded” an immediate suspension of the community release program and a review to determine new ”behavioural protocols … with clear negative sanctions for breaches”.
But Victorian Liberal backbencher Russell Broadbent said there should ”never be special categories of laws for different categories of people … the rule of law should apply to all and we should not set some people apart”.
”This kind of vilification of asylum seekers is unacceptable in this nation,” he said.
Mr Broadbent is one of a small group of backbenchers who successfully demanded the softening of asylum laws during the Howard government.
Mr Morrison said the government had ”no idea” where 8700 people released on bridging visas pending assessment of their refugee claims were living, and it was ”very reasonable” to ask why asylum seekers were not released with reporting requirements similar to offenders released on bail.
”This is a wake-up call … this case has exposed the complete absence of commonsense safeguards,” he said.
Mr Morrison said the behaviour protocols should be the ”terms and conditions of how one is expected to behave in the community”, similar to codes applying in immigration detention centres.
Service providers such as the Red Cross and accommodation services should be required to report any breaches, he said.
But the government said Mr Morrison was ”cynically exploiting an incident which is before the courts to cause fear and unrest in the community”.
A spokeswoman for Immigration Minister Brendan O’Connor said people on bridging visas were required to report regularly to the Immigration Department. They were also required to provide their address and to report any move.
She said people underwent security assessments before they were released from immigration detention, although Mr Morrison claimed asylum seekers could be released before their identity had been established.
Based on 2011-12 statistics, most of the 8700 asylum seekers on bridging visas are refugees. In that year, about 90 per cent of boat arrivals were later found to be refugees.
Barrister Greg Barns, spokesman for the Australian Lawyers Alliance, said his organisation was concerned about the ”fear campaign” being run by Mr Morrison, “which implies that there are large criminal elements among asylum seekers, which is just not the case”.
Mr Barns said he had acted for many asylum seekers in the area of refugee law. ”Interactions by asylum seekers with police around Australia are few and far between,” he said, and were ”usually very low-level stuff”.
Karen Willis, the executive officer of the NSW Rape Crisis Centre, said Mr Morrison’s comments were creating unnecessary fear in the community.
She said that less than 1 per cent of sexual violence in the community occurred through so-called ”stranger danger”.
With BIANCA HALL
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