Call to abandon 'harsh' asylum seeker policies: Coates

PROCESSING of asylum seekers could reach the Ballarat City Council chamber.

Councillor Belinda Coates will put forward a notice of motion hoping to get the council to join a statement to the federal government requesting it abandon its “harsh” asylum seeker policies.

“We have to be proactive about human rights and this sends a strong message from local government,” Cr Coates said. “The core of the issue is relevant to Ballarat. We have a strong community of support for refugees in groups and organisations who are well aware of the challenges they face.

“This says Ballarat is signing up for the bigger picture, what we do here and how we treat asylum seekers is important.”

Cr Coates, who is a member of the Greens party and has previously been criticised for bringing Greens policies into the chamber, said it was an issue that expanded further than one party.

“It’s an issue much of Australia feels very strongly about,” she said.

The joint statement, which has already been endorsed by 11 Victorian councils, requests visa applications of asylum seekers currently living in the community on bridging visas be processed as soon as possible.

It also asks for permanent residency to be made available to these asylum seekers.

Cr Coates said the joint statement ties in with the declaration of the Ballarat municipal district as a refugee welcome zone.

alicia.thomas@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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