The Gillard government’s offer of payments to Australians who want to house asylum seekers is a compassionate move that will improve the mental health of fragile people and save taxpayers money, the Greens said today.

“The Greens are pleased the Immigration Department sees the sense of a home placement scheme, which is a better use of public money than keeping asylum seekers detained indefinitely while their protection claims are assessed,” Greens’ immigration spokesperson, Sen. Sarah Hanson-Young, said.

“Various forms of home stay schemes have operated in Australia since the former Howard government and I helped run one in Adelaide, so I know first-hand they work and benefit both asylum seekers and those who house them.

“There’s enormous goodwill in the Australian community toward refugees, with many Australians already visit detention centres in their own time to meet asylum seekers. I am sure there will be plenty of people keen to get involved in the home placement scheme.

“Nine in 10 people who arrive by boat are found to be refugees, so it makes sense to let them live on bridging visas with everyday Australians once health and security checks show it is safe to do so.

“The Greens have been calling for the creation of a short-term home placement scheme for years, pointing out it works successfully in other countries such as Sweden.

“We’re glad the department is finally acting because it’s a far more sensible use of taxpayers’ dollars, especially in a tough budget year, than only using costly detention centres which cause mental illnesses, particularly among children.

“The home placement scheme will cost about $140 a week to run, compared to up to $850 per night for a person stuck in a detention centre.”