Parliament motion calls for the release of people seeking asylum and refugees from detention

Media Release
16 June 2021

Today, the House of Representatives debated a motion calling on the Government to release all refugees and people seeking asylum from indefinite detention who were moved to Australia for medical treatment.

The motion was moved by ALP MP Josh Burns and supported by MPs Ged Kearney, Alicia Payne and Sharon Claydon as well as spoken in favour of by independent MP Andrew Wilkie. It drew attention to the physical health risks of detention as well as the mental and psychological damage inflicted by indefinite detention. Debate on the motion was adjourned.

There are currently over 100 refugees and people seeking asylum who were moved from offshore to onshore detention because they needed urgent medical care, which they have not received. There are also over 200 people seeking asylum and refugees that are still held offshore against their will in Papua New Guinea and on Nauru.

New Zealand’s offer to resettle 150 refugees per year was also mentioned in the motion, and the Government was called on to immediately accept this long-standing offer.

There is overwhelming and sustained community support for the release of people from detention, some of whom have been locked up for 8 years.

The Time for a Home alliance of over 140 organisations and community networks, at the start of the year handed over a 36,923 strong petition to ALP, Greens and crossbench MPs. The petition called on the Government to release all people transferred from offshore processing from detention and resettle them in a safe, permanent home.

Last week the alliance hosted a rally in Canberra reaffirming this call, with 13 MPs and Senators from across the political spectrum attending the rally.

Jana Favero, Director of Advocacy and Campaigns at Asylum Seeker Resource Centre said: “We welcomed the release of nearly 100 medevac refugees from detention earlier this year and hoped this would continue. Unfortunately, the releases have come to a halt, leaving over 100 refugees trapped in detention, including 5 women.”

“Not only have they not been released, but they are not receiving the medical care they were transferred for. The cruelty must stop, the time has come for all people held in detention to be released.”

“Once released from detention, people seeking asylum and refugees need a permanent resettlement plan so they can begin to rebuild their lives. This includes access to an adequate safety net to prevent homelessness, hunger and illness.”

“Today we have seen politicians recognise the community’s calls to end the punitive, arbitrary indefinite detention regime.”

Sarah Dale, Director and Principal Solicitor at Refugee Advice and Casework Service said: “Many of these people have been held in detention for close to a decade because they dared to seek asylum in Australia; a country that is bound to protect them under International law.”

“This motion today is welcome, but the need remains that there absolutely needs to be a permanent resettlement plan in place for people who continue to suffer under our hostile policies – both in the community and those experiencing indefinite detention.”

“Australia’s punitive policies allowing for indefinite detention and cruel treatment, simply for seeking safety has to stop.”

Dr Graham Thom, Refugee Adviser at Amnesty International Australia said: “The offer from New Zealand to take 150 refugees from offshore has been on the table since 2013. Talks are supposedly now, finally happening, but the details are vague. This Government needs to end the suffering now. It’s been eight long years – with alternatives like this on the table enough is enough.”

Marie Hapke, Representative from the Australian Refugee Action Network said: “The pointlessness and cruelty of long term administrative immigration detention has been brought to the attention of the public with the medical neglect of Tharnicaa Marugappan.  This family and hundreds of other refugees and people seeking asylum are unnecessarily held in costly detention when they could be living and working in the community while their visa status is determined.   It’s time for our government to accept our obligations to protect refugees, and allow them to settle in Australia or New Zealand.”

David Burke, Legal Director, Human Rights Law Centre said: “The ongoing detention of refugees who were transferred to Australia for medical treatment is cruel and entirely needless. They have already endured more than six years in Australia’s offshore detention camps before being brought here. Their physical and mental well-being has suffered, and many have been deliberately kept apart from their families. Prime Minister Morrison must immediately release the remaining people so they can begin to rebuild their lives permanently in safety.”

Read the motion in full here


Media contact: Sam Brennan 0428 973 324

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