Scott Morrison to release 150 detainee children into community

Scott Morrison to release 150 detainee children into community

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison is mounting a new push to restore temporary protection visas after announcing 150 children would be removed from immigration detention centres and placed on bridging visas in the community.

The use of temporary visas, which have been voted down twice in the Senate, would allow asylum seekers to have work rights, but not allow permanent residency in Australia.

Crossbenchers confirmed to Fairfax Media that Mr Morrison had scheduled meetings with them this week, as Palmer United Party leader Clive Palmer is due to meet the minister on Wednesday.

Senator Bob Day told Fairfax Media that he was ''fully supportive'' of Mr Morrison and the temporary protection visas.

''I admire the way Scott Morrison is going about this very difficult task and fully support him,'' he said.

The Liberal Democratic Party's David Leyonhjelm said he was reserving his position, but added ''I'm probably inclined to support TPVs as it allows asylum seekers to work.''

Senators Nick Xenophon, John Madigan and Jacqui Lambie said they would reserve their position until they had seen the exact detail of the proposed visas.

The announcement to release 150 children, who are under the age of 10 and who arrived in Australia before July 19 last year, comes days before Mr Morrison is due to appear before the final hearing of the Australian Human Rights Commission on Friday.

Labor's immigration spokesman Richard Marles said on Wednesday that he had ''no doubts'' as to the motivation behind Mr Morrison's announcement.

''We've heard nothing from this Minister in the last 12 months which indicates the slightest shred of compassion on his part for the plight of children in detention until he is to face this inquiry on Friday and we see effectively a confected announcement which really ought to be business as usual,'' he told ABC Radio.

Mr Marles said the announcement lacked detail about extra support for children released among other problems.

''Transport, schooling, all of this ought to be provided already and nor do we have any explanation of what is the advice which suggests that this should only be applying to children under 10,'' he said.

''I've never heard that age be used before in determining whether or not people should be taken out of detention. I'd be very keen to understand exactly what is the advice which is focusing on that age group.''

Refugee advocates and lawyers cautiously welcomed the announcement on Tuesday but questioned why the department was not releasing children from offshore detention, which has been continually acknowledged as significantly affecting the mental health of children.

Social justice law firm Maurice Blackburn said the government needed to expand its announcement to include all children and babies in detention, including those locked in offshore facilities and babies born in mainland detention after July 19 last year.

''We welcome that the federal government has now recognised that detention is no place for babies and children,'' principal lawyer Jacob Varghese said.

''However, it's disappointing that the announcement explicitly excludes those children who have arrived in Australia after July 19, 2013.''

Mr Varghese said the government had overlooked the fact that children experienced serious trauma in detention irrespective of when they arrived in Australia.

Amnesty International said the government's plan to release up to 150 children was an admission that children were harmed by being kept in detention.

The organisation said while the release of any children from detention was welcomed, all children in the government's care should be released into the community.

"We support the government's admission that mandatory detention is costly and damaging," Dr Graham Thorn, refugee co-ordinator for Amnesty International, said.

"Given this has been acknowledged by the government, it must also release kids from detention on Nauru and Christmas Island and expand this announcement to include children over the age of 10."