Would you take an asylum seeker into your home?

Thursday, November 22, 2012
Would you take an asylum seeker into your home?
The Weekly's assistant food editor Xanthe Roberts, her partner Andrew Lockhart, and their Afghan asylum seeker.

Thousands of people who have arrived in Australia by boat this year will now be allowed to live in the community, while their claims are processed.

Under changes announced by the Gillard government yesterday, they will be paid around 90 percent of the NewStart allowance, or $428 a fortnight.

They will also be entitled to accommodation.

The Opposition says the decision proves that the Gillard government has given up trying to stop boat people from coming to Australia.

The policy was changed because the off-shore detention centres at Nauru and Manus Island are full.

About 400 people are arriving by boat every week; more than 7000 have arrived just since August, and 31,000 since Labor came to power.

Detention centres across the country are hopelessly overcrowded. The Australian newspaper this morning published photographs of people sleeping in tents on Christmas Island.

The government insists the tents aren't being used as accommodation; they are only for "napping".

The radio airwaves crackled this morning with people furious about the government's decision to allow people who arrive by boat to stay in the community.

But not everyone objects: pick up the December issue of The Australian Women's Weekly to read "The Stranger in Our Spare Room".

It's a moving tale, involving one of our own staff, Xanthe Roberts, 28, who last month agreed to take an asylum seeker into her home, as part of the government's formal Homestay program.

Xanthe's guest is Kobra: she's 38, a Mum of four, originally from Afghanistan. She came to Australia by boat, and barely spoke any English when she arrived.

She's now living with The Weekly's assistant food editor; cooking up a storm in the kitchen, grateful for the opportunity to build a new life.

Kobra hopes one day that her children can join her. In the meantime, she's started in The Weekly's test kitchen, washing dishes, working towards what she hopes is a better future.

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