Controversial legislation to stop asylum seekers and refugees landing in Australia was passed in Parliament yesterday.
The bill ensures that asylum seekers who come by boat will be sent for offshore processing and will be unable to live in the community.
As a hub for migrants, western Sydney has numerous centres dealing with asylum seekers and refugees like The House of Welcome, Settlement Services International and The Migrant Resource Centre.
Manager of The House of Welcome, Paul Botrill, said the largest number of asylum seekers was based in Parramatta, Liverpool and Fairfield.
“There is likely to be increased disappointment and anger from western Sydney where there are incredibly diverse ethnicities,”he said.
Many migrant centres that deal with asylum seekers are limited by the Houston report that was introduced last year giving refugees no entitlements to work or study.
“While the government have supported boat arrivals with some assistance, it is not enough for them to be able to survive,” Mr Botrill said.
The government, which is currently facing increasing boat arrivals, joined forces with the Coalition to pass the bill in an effort to deter people from coming by boat, despite alternative proposed amendments by the Greens.
Before the amendments were made, asylum seekers who arrived on the mainland could not be sent offshore to Manus Island or Nauru for processing.
The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre released a statement saying that Australia is spending $2.8 billion to ‘‘lock up 12,000 asylum seekers in detention centres for the next year, with 94 per cent of them being refugees’’.
“If we allowed those same 12,000 people to work in the community and contribute to our economy the total — even on minimum wage — would be $254,951,424, per annum.”
Amnesty International was also appalled by the decision.
“Until today, the government’s policy of removing asylum seekers from the mainland and locking them up offshore was against Australian law,” refugee campaigner Graeme McGregor said.
“Now the government has changed the law to suit their policies.
‘‘This doesn’t change the fact that this is an inhumane, ineffective and expensive policy that ignores Australia’s responsibilities to people who need our protection.”
The Migration Amendment (Unauthorised Maritime Arrivals and other measures) Bill 2012 will now be presented to the Governor General.