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Asylum seekers headed for suburbs
Asylum seekers headed for suburbs

Thousands of asylum seekers will be dumped in the suburbs and banned from getting a job as the Federal Government desperately tries to slow the flow of boats to Australia.

The Government has also sent its first group of asylum seekers to Papua New Guinea's remote Manus Island as part of its new offshore processing regime and used a RAAF jet to forcibly return a big group of Sri Lankans to Colombo.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen unveiled yesterday a string of measures aimed at relieving pressure on the immigration detention system, which has been swamped by asylum seekers arriving in Australia.

In a radical step, Mr Bowen said all asylum seekers who had arrived in Australia after August 13 when the new processing system was put into effect would have the so-called "no advantage" test applied to their cases - meaning they could be left waiting for up to five years for a permanent protection visa.

While asylum seekers wait for a resolution on their cases, they will be released into the community on bridging visas but given no work rights and only limited accommodation assistance and financial support.

Almost 8000 asylum seekers have arrived in Australia by boat since August 13 and more than 15,500 this year. There are 5519 asylum seekers in mainland detention centres and community detention. Another 5202 people are living in the community on bridging visas.

On Christmas Island 2519 people are detained, 387 on Nauru and 19 on Manus Island.

Four children were among the first group of asylum seekers sent to Manus Island - the first youngsters to be sent offshore for processing.

Mr Bowen said children had been sent to the island to stop people smugglers peddling stories that asylum seekers were unlikely to be sent offshore if they arrived with children. As well as deporting its biggest group of Sri Lankan asylum seekers to Colombo - 100 men - the Government for the first time forcibly returned an Afghan man who had exhausted all appeals to stay in Australia.

Almost 430 Sri Lankans have been involuntarily returned to Colombo since August 13. "No one should doubt this Government's resolve to breaking the people smugglers' business model and save lives at sea," Mr Bowen said.

He said as part of efforts to take pressure off the detention system, Tasmania's 400-bed Pontville camp would be reopened and a detention centre in Melbourne would be expanded by another 300 places.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott ramped up his rhetoric on asylum seekers, warning that people coming to Australia "illegally" could not expect to be "treated like they were staying in a four or five star hotel".

When it was pointed out that there was nothing illegal about claiming asylum, Mr Abbott said: "It is illegal to come to Australia without papers, without proper documentation, without adhering to the normal requirements that we expect."

Refugee advocates and the Greens blasted the Government's asylum seeker plan.