19 July 2022
The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) calls on the Minister for Home Affairs Clare O’Neil to immediately evacuate all refugees currently held on Nauru and Papua New Guinea to Australia, providing a clear pathway for permanent resettlement to refugees while residing in the community, as a system that denies basic rights enters its tenth year.
On July 19 2013 then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said that people seeking asylum by sea would be prevented from settling in Australia and detained offshore.
This policy has been an unequivocal failure, harming people seeking asylum and preventing them from rebuilding their lives. Despite this successive governments have chosen to sustain this policy, causing untold harm and leading to the death of 14 refugees.
A decade on and there are 216 refugees still held offshore, over 110 refugees on Nauru and over 100 in PNG.
Nearly half the population of Nauru have contracted COVID-19 and refugees on the small island nation are struggling to access necessities including food, medicine and clean water.
Facilities on the island have always been woefully inadequate for refugees, however, the current conditions necessitate emergency evacuation to Australia with the guarantee that they will not be taken to immigration detention centres.
Similarly, refugees in PNG lack access to adequate medical care, are separated from their families and are denied basic human rights.
As conditions further deteriorate on Nauru and PNG, refugees should be evacuated to Australia with the assurance that they will not be held in immigration detention. All refugees held on PNG and Nauru need a permanent resettlement pathway, and during this process need to receive mainstream social support with work rights in Australia.
A refugee currently on Nauru said: “July 19 2013 will always be a black day in the history of Australia. It began a series of events that will haunt the people involved one way or another. It has imposed this cruel policy upon the vulnerable people seeking asylum.”
“Seeking asylum has never been a choice. People seeking asylum and every individual story here have an intended purpose of seeking asylum and has a well-founded right to their claims. But still, we are facing the circumstances of the imposed cruel policy that has degraded lives.”
“July 19 has made people seeking asylum lives miserable, meaningless and worthless. Nauru is a remote country that struggles to look after the local people let alone refugees. Nauru has its own social, political and basic survival problems. Living in such a community on a remote island is no less than a nightmare and being in that for 9 years is more than one can imagine.”
Ismael Hussein, a refugee formerly held on Manus Island and Park Hotel, said: “July 19 is the ninth anniversary of our detention, it is the day the Australian government decided our fate, torture and imprisonment, it is a day that has marked in our hearts, it is a day of pain, sorrow and sadness.”
“After 9 complete years we are still not free, we aren’t free to decide what we want to do with our lives, we aren’t free to study, we are free to see our families and loved ones, we aren’t free to plan our future and above all we aren’t free because our brothers and friends are still stuck offshore in Nauru and PNG with no hope of resettlement or getting freedom.”
“The Labour Party and the current government are the ones who started this policy that we are sent to offshore, I hope they do the right thing to end it and free everyone to start and rebuild their lives.”
Jana Favero, Director of Advocacy and Campaigns at ASRC, said: “When I visited the Manus Island detention centre in 2017 the refugees I met were determined, strong, resourceful, kind and resilient. Refugees and people seeking asylum who do not have enough to eat each day insisted on making me tea and offering what little they have. But rather than protecting people seeking asylum, successive governments have chosen to punish them and prevent them from uniting with family and denied them the ability to rebuild their lives.”
“The policy of offshore processing is poisonous and for 14 people this poison has been lethal. Minister O’Neil must and can act. All refugees offshore must be immediately evacuated to Australia and guaranteed that they will not be held in detention while their resettlement pathway is processed.”
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