The ASRC supports the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Calls for the shutdown of Christmas Island Detention facilities

Media Release

16 June 2021

The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre strongly supports the Australian Human Rights Commission’s 20 recommendations outlined today in their report Management of COVID-19 risks in immigration detention.  

The review assessed the adequacy and appropriateness of measures taken in response to COVID-19 risks against international human rights standards, expert health advice and relevant guidelines.

The Commission findings conclude that Christmas Island is unsuitable for ongoing immigration detention, especially in the current pandemic – recommending that the Australian Government should urgently decommission the use of all immigration detention facilities on Christmas Island and the use of semi-permanent hotel APODs for ongoing periods of closed detention. 

The ASRC and other human rights organisations have for a long time been greatly concerned about the health and safety of people held on Christmas Island. 

Christmas Island was closed down in 2018 after a decade of use, however, the Morrison Government reopened the detention centre in 2019 under the guise of spreading out the detention population. 

At the time of its reopening, medical experts across Australia – including the Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases and the Australasian College for Infection Prevention and Control – advised that the Government release people held in detention to protect against a widespread outbreak; they were ignored. 

Jana Favero, Director of Advocacy and Campaigns at Asylum Seeker Resource Centre said: 

“This report tells us what we have been warning of since the outbreak of COVID19. Detention facilities are overcrowded, in remote locations, out of sight and out of mind with inadequate health care, lack of timely testing and access to vaccinations, poorly trained staff, high volume and movement of staff. The conditions are a ticking time bomb.

“The recent medical evacuation of Tharnicaa Murugappan, after 10 days of pleading with detention staff to take her to the hospital, only confirms the inadequacy of Government support at the Christmas Island facility. 

“In stark contrast to other countries around the world, Australia has been steadily increasing the number of people in detention centres. The impact of detention on the mental and physical health of refugees is well documented and proven.

“We have long known that the facilities used for quarantine inside immigration detention are harsh and prison-like with no or very limited access to natural light, fresh air and outdoor space.

“Contrary to the Australian Border Force’s recent assurance that “no refugees are being transferred to [Christmas Island], there are currently over 100 refugees held on Christmas Island, some of whom have family in the community and have critical health issues. 

“Christmas Island is remote, isolated and lacks sophisticated health care facilities, which poses even greater risk during a pandemic. 

“The Australian Government must go beyond ‘noting’ the recommendations in the report and urgently act to reduce the number of people in closed immigration detention. The reopening of Christmas Island to detain refugees is shameful and the facility must be closed.


Media contact: Sam Brennan 0428 973 324

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