Catholic and other human rights organisations have welcomed the Gillard government's plan to move hundreds of asylum-seeker children and families from detention centres into the community.
The government will open two new onshore detention centres, and children and vulnerable families will be moved into community accommodation run by churches and charities by June 2011, The Australian reports.
There are more than 700 children in immigration detention in Australia, it said.
However, all unauthorised arrivals will continue to be mandatorily detained when they first arrive while identity and security checks are carried out, according to an AAP report in the Sydney Morning Herald.
"This is a very good initiative, a good response to what we and other asylum-seeker and refugee agencies have been advocating for a while now," said the director of the Jesuit Refugee Service, Fr Sacha Bermudez-Goldman.
"We cannot keep people in detention for indefinite periods of time, especially those who are most vulnerable, unaccompanied minors and families with children."
Groups including the Refugee Council of Australia (RCA) and the Edmund Rice Centre (ERC) said, however, that the government's time-frame is too long.
"They are a special case and we would hope that their processing might be expedited to ensure they remained in detention for as little time as possible," said ERC Director, Phil Glendenning.
The government would partner with non-government organisations and community groups to house the asylum seekers and would cover the cost, which is yet to be revealed.
Ms Gillard's plan also includes a major expansion of facilities on the mainland with the commissioning of two new detention centres, at Northam in Western Australia and Inverbrackie in South Australia, to cater for up to 1900 asylum seekers.
Two new detention centres to be opened, as children are moved into community housing (The Australian)
PM's child refugee strategy hailed (Sydney Morning Herald/AAP)
Jesuit Refugee Service welcomes Govt announcement
ERC media release on Immigration detention changes
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