Citizenship and Multicultural Interests Minister Rob Johnson has condemned the Federal Government’s refusal to suspend three-year temporary protection visas (TPVs) to illegal immigrants.
State and Territory Ministers at the Ministerial Council on Immigration and Multicultural Affairs meeting in New Zealand today unanimously called for the suspension pending an immediate review of funding arrangements.
Their call was rejected by Federal Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock.
Mr Johnson said TPVs - introduced by the Federal Government late last year to cope with the influx of illegal arrivals - would place an unfair financial burden on WA taxpayers.
Since January, more than 200 illegal immigrants detained at the Port Hedland and Curtin detention centres in the State’s north have been issued with TPVs. Hundreds more are expected to be released from detention centres in WA and South Australia over the next few months.
Mr Johnson said if the same proportion were directed to WA as had been the case in the past few months, up to 1,000 illegal immigrants with TPVs could be sent to Perth.
“This will place an enormous burden on the State and we should be compensated for it,” he said.
“While I support the Commonwealth’s moves to curb illegal or unauthorised entries into Australia, it should not be at the expense of the States and Territories, who feel obligated to provide the shortfall in essential refugee services to those with TPVs.
“I am very disappointed that the Commonwealth rejected our concerns today, given that a very large portion of these people are being directed to Perth.”
During the meeting, Mr Johnson also argued for the establishment of a research program into the social implications - and financial costs - of releasing large numbers of illegal immigrants into the community. This motion was rejected by the Federal Minister.
Mr Johnson said as a deterrent to unauthorised arrivals, he had suggested that all illegal immigrants - if they obtained permanent residency - be denied access to family reunion schemes in the future.
Media contact: Fran Hodge (08) 9481 3244