Unity outside Parliament calling for the release of refugees and people seeking asylum from detention and permanent resettlement
Ahead of Refugee Week, hundreds rallied out the front of Parliament in Canberra calling on the Government to provide a permanent resettlement plan for people seeking asylum and refugees who have suffered under Australia’s immigration detention regime.
The rally was held by the Time for a Home coalition of 140 organisations and community networks. Politicians who spoke included, Andrew Giles from the ALP, Independent Andrew Wilkie and Senator Nick McKim from the Greens.
Australia’s offshore detention regime has affected thousands of people seeking asylum and refugees, leading to the avoidable death of 14 people, unnecessarily separating families for years, denying adequate medical care, subjecting people to harmful conditions and refusing basic rights. For these reasons and many others, there is mounting pressure on the Government to end indefinite, arbitrary detention and provide a permanent resettlement plan.
There are still over 100 refugees and people seeking asylum who were moved from offshore detention because they needed medical care, being held across a network of detention centres in Australia. Not only has the Government failed to provide the medical care needed, but the refugees and people seeking asylum are held in harmful conditions, with some only allowed to leave their room for a few hours a day and suffering from critical physical and mental health issues.
Furthermore, over 200 people seeking asylum and refugees are still held against their will in offshore processing on Papua New Guinea and Nauru. They face violence and discrimination while nominally under the protection of the Australia Government. The Government has also failed to provide adequate medical care to the people on Nauru and PNG.
Even those who have been released from detention and are living in the community are still unable to rebuild their lives as they are denied a permanent plan for resettlement.
At the beginning of 2021 over 35,000 people signed a petition accepted by the ALP, Greens and crossbench MPs calling for the release of all people transferred from offshore processing from detention and resettle them in a safe, permanent home by World Refugee Day, 20 June 2021.
Thanush Selvarasa, human rights activist and refugee detained on Manus, Mantra and MITA, released on 28 Jan 2021 said: “Eight years of being indefinitely detained for no reason is unfair and cruel. My brothers and sisters in detention are human beings, they need to be released and I hope no one has to go through this unjust indefinite detention again. Please release my friends, enough is enough.”
Ramsiyar Sabanayagam, human rights activist and refugee detained on Manus, Mantra and Park Hotel, released on 21 Jan 2021 said: “I am trying to fight for my friends still in detention but the Government needs to listen to our voice. Eight years is very very hard, everyone needs to be released and there needs to be a permanent resettlement plan.”
“I am happy that we have friends here that recognise what we have been through and who stand beside us in our fight for freedom, it is not easy to find accommodation and jobs for people who were recently released from detention.”
Myo Win, human rights activist, Rohingyan and refugee detained on Christmas Island and Nauru, released in March 2021, said: “I want to support my brothers and sisters who are left behind in PNG and Nauru, still in limbo with no hope. I was in their shoes so I can imagine what they feel, how extremely hard it is being without hope. We lost concentration because we have stress every single minute, separated from family. I need to worry about my family. I don’t know if I can see my family again or not. Everything is limited – food, jobs and opportunity.”
“I really disagree with offshore detention. Because it is not right to do, to keep people in detention on a remote island and taking their future.”
Sarah Dale, Director and Principal Solicitor at Refugee Advice and Casework Service said: “The community has spoken time and time again. They don’t want to see people locked up, for seeking protection. Let alone for years, let alone approaching a decade. The Government inaction needs to stop. People must be released from detention and given the chance to rebuild their lives in safety.”
“We will continue our call for as long as it takes to ensure refugees and people seeking asylum are treated with dignity and respect, which includes a life free from detention and permanent safety.”
Dr Graham Thom, Refugee Adviser at Amnesty International Australia said: “There has never been a justification for the detention of innocent refugees, and after 8 years the sentiment in Australia is shifting.”
“The humanitarian and economic cost of this Government’s inaction is hard to believe. It is time to listen to the medical professionals and the Australian public and resettle refugees trapped in Australia’s offshore detention system as a matter of urgency.”
Jana Favero, Director of Advocacy and Campaigns at Asylum Seeker Resource Centre said: “As we approach World Refugee Day and the 8th anniversary of people being sent to offshore prisons, it’s time to finally end the harm and cruelty. People seeking safety on our shores have been punished for long enough.”
“The medical community has spoken, the public has spoken, our elected representatives have spoken. And most importantly we’ve heard from those impacted by our cruel policies. We will not stop fighting until who sought protection are free, safe and have a permanent home ”
Marie Hapke, Representative from the Australian Refugee Action Network said: “People from communities across Australia want to see our Government bring this sad chapter to an end. There is no justification for continuing policies that harm refugees and people who flee danger to find safety here in Australia. Australia is not filling our refugee quota – release refugees from detention and resettle them here.”
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