Eight year anniversary of offshore detention, denying people seeking asylum a permanent and safe home

Media Release
19 July 2021

Today marks eight years since former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced that people seeking asylum in Australia by boat would be processed offshore and prevented from settling in Australia.

Since 2013, 3,127 people who came to Australia for protection have been subjected to offshore processing and are still suffering under failed, arbitrary and harmful policies.

There are currently over 230 people still held on Nauru and in Papua New Guinea, where they are receiving inadequate medical support and disregard for their future.

Over 140 people previously detained offshore are now held in Australia’s onshore immigration detention network including Alternative Places of Detention (APODs) such as the Park Hotel in Melbourne. This arbitrary detention – now for over 8 years in total has taken a critical physical and mental toll on the health of the people detained.

For 14 people the policies implemented by successive governments and the conditions of detention have cost them their lives.

Over 1,000 people who have suffered for years in offshore detention are now in Australia on short term bridging visas or in community detention, without any permanent resettlement plan, and no place to call home.

700 people due to Australia’s punitive and harmful immigration regime have returned to their country of origin, often to face persecution and in some cases death. Around 940 people have been resettled in the United States and 17 in other countries.

Behind these statistics are mothers, engineers, artists, children, leaders and people, who have had their lives put on hold, separated from loved ones, and in some cases lost their lives as a result of the punitive policies of successive Australian governments.

The Time for a Home coalition of 140 organisations and community networks is calling for an immediate end to indefinite detention and for the Government to provide permanent and safe resettlement to all.

Basim, human rights activist and refugee detained at Park Hotel said: “Every single day we wake up and think when will we have our freedom and privacy and hope of our future. We have been almost 2 years [in onshore detention], our foot has not touched the ground, we are locked up in a hotel prison.”

“Some of the damage we will never recover from. We are locked up for years for no reason, and we don’t how long we will be, we don’t know our future. All this torture and punishment just because we are seeking asylum and refuge.”

Betelhem Tebubu,  human rights activist and survivor of Offshore Processing on Nauru said: “We have been without a home for eight years now. We are all on short bridging visas and lost too many years to detention. We can not start a new life as free people and live our dreams without a permanent home.”

Sarah Dale, Director and Principal Solicitor at Refugee Advice and Casework Service said: “As a human being I have never been able to comprehend offshore processing. As a lawyer, I am floored. It’s unthinkable that we are now at 8 years of a policy so arbitrary and harmful in nature. The time has long since passed for this policy to be changed and the longer the Government takes, the deeper Australia fails in its International obligations, only perpetuating human suffering.”

Jana Favero, Director of Advocacy and Campaigns, Asylum Seeker Resource Centre said: “The policy to choose cruelty by denying people seeking asylum a home and subject them to arbitrary detention is a failure on both a practical and moral level, it should not have existed for one second let alone eight years. The future of people who sought protection on our shores is in the hands of the Morrison Government who must act urgently to ensure they are safe permanently.”

David Burke, Legal Director at the Human Rights Law Centre: “After eight long years, the Morrison Government continues to lock people up in deplorable conditions both offshore and in Australia. This policy has been an absolute failure. Families have been ripped apart. People have died. Hundreds of men, women and children have lost years of their lives and still don’t have any permanent home. The Morrison Government must end this dark chapter in our history and close offshore detention once and for all.”

Dr Graham Thom, Refugee Adviser at Amnesty International Australia said: “Eight years since the latest version of offshore processing was introduced, it is hard to comprehend how hundreds still remain trapped. For many of these refugees, the uncertainty they continue to face, the separation from their loved ones, the inability to start a new life and plan for the future has created severe mental health issues. The dangerous and neglectful conditions they have also had to face has impacted their physical health. The cruelty of the Australian Government to allow this to continue is unforgivable. Those still stuck offshore need to be resettled immediately and New Zealand, which has offered to take 150 refugees each year since 2013, has provided the solution. It’s time to accept that offer.”

Marie Hapke, Representative from the Australian Refugee Action Network said: “We have seen so many individuals and communities reach out to welcome people who seek safety here in Australia – most recently we saw the broad community support for the Murugappan family to be allowed to live permanently in Biloela. This family, and the thousands who have sought asylum here have exercised their right to protection and safety under the UN Refugee Convention.  It’s time for our government to stop spending billions on denying the right to asylum, harming people in long term detention, and keeping them in limbo without a clear pathway to a safe and secure future. It’s time to let these refugees call Australia home, and to accept the New Zealand offer for those stranded in PNG and on Nauru.”


Media contact: Sam Brennan 0428 973 324

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