Salvos Call For Reason and Balance In Asylum Seeker Debate

The Salvation Army has called for a more rational debate in the Australian community about solutions to the issue of those seeking asylum.

The Salvation Army expressed concern that the use of limited and selective financial information was being used to stir up emotions and set disadvantaged Australians against another highly vulnerable group of people.

Major Paul Moulds, Director of Social Services in the Australia Eastern Territory (NSW, ACT & QLD), says that: “many of the arguments being debated in the media today do not provide people with a full or accurate picture. While they focus on the costs of caring for asylum seekers in the community, they make no comparison with the enormous costs of holding a person in detention."

He says the reality is that the costs of secure detention with 24 hour security, and the provision of all meals and services are many, many times higher than the cost of placing an asylum seeker in the community.

He says Red Cross figures estimate that costs are 90 percent lower placing people in the community than holding them in detention.

"Added to this are the hidden costs of detention. People actually get emotionally and mentally unwell. Study after study has confirmed this, and if they are eventually granted refugee status and released into the community, there are then very significant costs in providing mental health care and counselling to help people recover from the experiences of being detained,” he said.

Major Moulds said the Salvation Army is currently involved in providing government funded community detention to adult single male asylum seekers and the people they are housing are very keen to work and contribute to Australia.

"They do not want to be recipients of welfare. They have travelled vast distances, and taken great risks, and fled terrible situations to forge a new life for themselves and their families in Australia. They love our freedom and opportunity, identify with our values and they want to contribute. Giving them the chance to do this is good for them and good for Australia."

Major Moulds called for continued creative approaches to resolving this issue.

"Australia has always been a country of compassion and tolerance, and our people have welcomed anyone who is in need. Out of this strong foundation”, Major Moulds expressed his confidence that “We can find and implement solutions that will benefit both Australia and those who come”. 

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