Release of 33 refugees from detention welcomed, but shows arbitrary nature of still detaining over 90
24 August 2021
The release of 25 refugees from the Park Hotel Alternative Place of Detention (APOD) in Melbourne and the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation (ITA) as well as 8 from the Brisbane ITA, today, is welcomed by the Time for a Home alliance, of 140 organisations and community networks.
However, the Morrison Government must now release the over 90 refugees and people seeking asylum still kept in harmful and arbitrary conditions in Australia’s network of immigration detention centres.
Today’s events follow the release of Hajar, Abbas Yaghob and Malakeh Maghames from the APOD compound beside the Mercure Darwin Airport Resort on Sunday. The Maghames family after over 8 years in detention are now Brisbane, where they will live in the community.
Between December 2020 and August 1 2021, 145 refugees and people seeking asylum have been released from immigration detention into the community.
These releases are a positive move by the Government, one that recognises the physical and mental health dangers of indefinite detention as well as the support for refugees and people seeking asylum to be in the community.
However it also highlights the arbitrary nature of indefinite detention as people are sporadically released while those in similar circumstances remain in detention with no explanation.
The Time for a Home alliance calls on the Government to release all refugees and people seeking asylum from detention and provide a permanent resettlement plan – many have now been held in detention for more than 8 years. This call also has strong community support with a petition in early March 2021 gaining 36,923 signatures and being received by politicians across the political spectrum.
Anonymous, a refugee still detained in MITA said: “So many people were released today. Why not me? I am the same as they are. They have destroyed my life already for more than eight years. I hate Australia now. I don’t ever want to stay here anymore. Please, please just let me wait in the community to go to the USA or Canada, New Zealand, anywhere.”
Jana Favero, Advocacy and Campaigns Director at ASRC said: “The release of 33 people from abusive conditions is good, but it begs the question: why on earth are we still keeping over 90 people in these conditions?”
“Releasing people from detention in dribs and drabs while providing no permanent resettlement plan and no explanation as to why others remain in detention is wholly insufficient. The mental health of those still in detention is only going to worsen because of the arbitrary and sporadic approach the Government has chosen to take. All refugees, including those held in Nauru and PNG, need a permanent resettlement plan immediately.”
Dr Graham Thom, refugee coordinator at Amnesty International Australia said: “While this is an important first step, given the mental health impact on all those still in detention, a number for 8 years, the release of those remaining must occur as a matter of urgency”.
“Ultimately we must see a coherent plan for the future of those recognised as refugees, having been subject to this policy since 2013, a simple first step would be to accept New Zealand’s offer to resettle 150 refugees a year.”
David Burke, Legal Director, Human Rights Law Centre said: “Through these latest releases, the Morrison Government is admitting they have detained hundreds of people in detention in Australia for more than a year for no reason.”
“Continuing to hold the remaining men who were brought here for medical treatment in detention is unjustifiable cruelty. After 8 years of this failed policy of offshore detention, the Government must release all of the remaining people and put forward a plan for permanent resettlement of everyone impacted.”
Marie Hapke from the Australian Refugee Action Network said: “We must stop tolerating the abuse of human rights. We must demand more of our politicians and policy makers. Most Australians would be shocked to learn that our government has spent billions of dollars holding innocent and vulnerable people in immigration detention centres – here in Australia and offshore – for no purpose except to discourage them, and others, from exercising their right to seek refuge and safety here.”
“These policies harm people, and shame us all as Australians. It does not need to be this way – we can welcome refugees.”
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