Release of 15 more refugees in Melbourne welcome, but Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton must release all remaining detained
29 January 2021
The release of 15 more refugees from the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation (MITA) detention centre yesterday is welcome news, particularly following the release of 46 people last week and the 1 man resettled in the U.S this week from the Park Hotel.
However, the Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton has yet to explain why so many more continue to be incarcerated across Australia, or when they will be released.
People are experiencing high levels of distress and are at high mental health risk due to the arbitrary nature of the Minister releasing small, select groups of people at a time, without any transparency or information.
Caseworkers, lawyers and community advocates are especially concerned about the mental health of 11 people left behind at the Park Hotel, due to intense uncertainty of their impending release.
There is no adequate emergency medical support or oversight into mental health care at any of the detention facilities to help protect lives.
Around 150 women and men who were transferred from Offshore Processing remain in a network of detention facilities across Australia.
Melbourne: 11 in the Park Hotel, 30 at MITA,
Brisbane: 30 at BITA, 85 at the Kangaroo Point Hotel
Darwin: 15 at the Mercure Hotel
Sydney: 3 at Villawood.
The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC), Rural Australians for Refugees, Amnesty International, Independent Doctors Network, RACS and Human Rights Law Centre are among 136 groups and organisations in the Time for a Home alliance, calling on the Morrison Government to urgently release and resettle people transferred to Australia from offshore processing.
Dr Sara Townend at Independent Doctors Network: “While doctors welcome the overdue release of those transferred to Australia for medical care, we would like to see releases continue. It seems that those who remain in closed detention have not been adequately provided with information about what will happen. The harm caused by ongoing uncertainty cannot be underestimated and must be addressed.”
Marie Selstrom at Rural Australians for Refugees said: “Rural Australians for Refugees are so delighted to see justice and freedom at long last for the men and women being released from indefinite detention. Many people seeking asylum and refugees are part of rural communities and we call on the Morrison Government to urgently release everyone, and take up New Zealand’s offer to resettle people or give them a permanent home in Australia.”
Jana Favero, Advocacy and Campaigns Director at ASRC said: “The Minister is playing with people’s mental health by not releasing them from detention, nor providing any information or orderly plan. The Morrison Government must provide an urgent, comprehensive and transparent release and resettlement for everyone after 7 years of abject policy failure, medical neglect and the loss of many lives under its inhumane offshore processing and indefinite detention policies.”
Dr Graham Thom, refugee coordinator at Amnesty International Australia said: “While the release of refugees into the community after so many years being trapped is welcome, the arbitrary nature of these announcements is wreaking havoc on those left behind. If, as the Minister for Home Affairs, Peter Dutton, has said, the release into community detention is more cost-effective, he must release the remaining 150 people still locked up in hotels and other detention facilities around Australia immediately.”
Sarah Dale, Centre Director and Principal Solicitor, Refugee Advice and Casework Service (RACS) said: “The detention regime, which keeps vulnerable people indefinitely detained for years, invokes extreme suffering at an enormous unjustified financial cost. The recent releases of people show the Government agrees that this is a debunked and flawed system. And therefore they must act now and release all people whom they have locked away – men and women who sit with the devastating uncertainty of whether they will ever find some sense of freedom, having sought asylum in this country.”
David Burke, Legal Director, Human Rights Law Centre said: “Through these latest releases, the Morrison Government is admitting they have locked up hundreds of people in detention in Australia for more than a year for no reason. These men and women had already endured six years of offshore detention before being brought here. All of the remaining people must be urgently released so they can rebuild their lives in safety and not lose another minute.”
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