Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone has pledged that all minors remaining in custody will be free by the weekend.
“As of this morning there were 42 children from 20 families in immigration detention centres. By the end of this week, there will be none,” the minister said in a statement.
“With this new, flexible approach for families, the government is maintaining its strong stance on border control while being sensitive to the special needs of families in detention.”
Seven families, including 20 children, were released Thursday from the Villawood detention centre in Sydney’s west.
Among them was Indonesian born Aplonia Djami who has been released into the community with her 10 year old son, George.
She said she would miss the friends she left behind at Villawood, whom she described as “good people.”
The refugee advocacy group, Chilout, says the ages of the freed children range from 4-months to 12-years-old.
Some of them have never lived in the community since they had been born in a detention centre.
Chilout said their countries of origin include Tonga, China, Taiwan, Indonesia and North Korea.
Some of the freed detainees will stay in hotel accommodation until the Red Cross and other agencies can find permanent homes.
The families technically remain under detention and will be required to report to immigration officials and social workers.
In another development, more than a thousand people facing deportation may now be able to stay in Australia after a significant federal court ruling.
The Federal Court in Canberra ruled Thursday that the government cannot deport asylum seekers, unless it proves their country of origin is safe.
The decision means that holders of three year temporary protection visas will no longer be forced to prove their refugee status when their visas expire.