'Party time' as PM called a 'hero' over asylum-seeker detention policies
By JONATHAN MARSHALL in Bogor,
December 03, 2012 12:00AM
ASYLUM seekers in Indonesia have swung into party mode and labelled Julia Gillard a "hero" after learning they will receive welfare payments and rent assistance should they make it to Australia by boat.
The wannabe citizens are ecstatic the government has conceded detention centres are beyond maximum capacity and that asylum seekers would need to be released into the community while their applications for refugee status were processed.
They would be given financial and housing support - as well as free basic health care - a massive boost from their current financial status in Indonesia where many are struggling to afford food.
However the asylum seekers, based in Puncak, 80km from Jakarta, said they feared Liberal leader Tony Abbott would be successful in his bid to become prime minister.
"Mr Abbott is not good for refugees and asylum seekers, he does not like us, he is not really a nice man," said Zia Haidari, a 25-year-old Afghanistan man who has attempted - unsuccessfully - to travel to Australia by boat seven times.
"Ms Gillard seems to understand how we feel and is trying her best.
"Abdulah Sulamani, 41, heaped praise on Ms Gillard: "She is a hero, you are lucky to have this woman for your country."
Solo mother Fatemeh Khavari, 30, told News Ltd she did not have enough money saved to travel by boat to Australia and had spent time living homeless and hungry in Indonesia with her six-month-old son.
Labor's announcement was music to her ears.
"If I can get this free money and house when I come to Australia this will make life very easy for me," Ms Khavari said.
"It is very hard right now for us, I cannot afford to buy milk formula, we are very hungry. Me and my child need the generosity of the Australian people.
"If that doesn't happen my baby may die."
Ms Khavari - whose reasons fleeing Iran were "private" - said the other factor to draw her towards Australia was free medical care.
"I cannot afford to have vaccinations for my baby so I can get this in Australia.
A new low for the Australian Labor Party:$173.000 per ILLEGAL Muslim asylum seeker as Chemotherapy Patients asked to pay MORE for treatment or die.
"The praise directed at the prime minister may be unwelcome by its recipient, with voters unlikely to be impressed with the notion asylum seekers think they are coming to a country with soft laws.
A new monthly record was set in November with 2443 people arriving on boats and Ms Gillard was asked yesterday if she would bring back temporary protection visas and tow boats back to Indonesia.
The government last month announced thousands of asylum seekers threatened with processing in Nauru and Manus Island would be released in the community in Australia on bridging visas with almost $440 a fortnight plus help to pay rent.
It is understood the government is aware large numbers of asylum seekers are rushing to get on boats in Indonesia before the monsoon season and are undeterred by the government's pledge to keep them waiting in the community for protection visas for up to five years under a "no advantage" test.
Ms Gillard said TPVs and tow backs were not policy options hours before the government announced 75 people on two boats had been rescued by the Navy off Christmas Island.
"This is a complicated issue for our nation, for nations around the world," Ms Gillard told Channel 10.
"Anybody who says that there is a simple fix to you is not telling you the truth. It takes a range of policies, and we are putting that range of policies in place."
The desperation in the voices of asylum seekers in Puncak is echoed right throughout the village, where many asylum seekers come prior to embarking on the sea journey to Australia.
They eat their basic evening meals with rusty utensils scattered around. Their tiny bedrooms contain no blankets and sleep up to eight people. The days are dull with no ability to work as work visas from Indonesian officials are non-existent for the travellers.
It is this harsh reality of life in villages like Punchak combined with the arrival of news about Labor's policy backflip that is bringing about party fever and the desire to come to Australia as soon as possible.
Seventeen-year-old Adres, who does not have a surname listed on his passport, said when he arrived on Indonesian soil three weeks ago he planned to apply for refugee status through UNHCR.
But upon learning of the over-filled detention centres in Australia he was determined to travel by sea.
"This is good news for us, if we stay here and apply for status we might not be allowed into Australia, but if we come on boat we get the money and house," Adres said.
"This is a great thing and I am very thanking to the government in your country."
The Afghanistan teenager, whose father was killed in Pakistan, made the journey to Indonesia by plane. He saved for the journey and would use his money to engage people smugglers.
"It is a dangerous risk but worth it to get a new country with opportunities.
"This is party time."