Behrouz Boochani calls for a Royal Commission into immigration detention, in the wake of corruption scandals

Media Release
27 November 2023

Behrouz Boochani, who was told he would never step foot in Australia, today launches a campaign for a Royal Commission into Immigration Detention from Parliament House, Canberra.

Boochani, who was formerly held on Manus Island, joins a coalition of refugees and people seeking asylum, faith groups, and advocacy organisations calling for a Royal Commission as the only way to ensure systemic and human rights abuses, corruption, and billions of dollars funnelled into upholding Australia’s brutal detention system are properly investigated and addressed.

Since July 2013, more than 3000 people and over 200 children who sought safety in Australia were forced offshore to Nauru and Manus Island, denied proper medical care and suffered at the hands of an abusive system rubber-stamped by the Australian Government.

At least fourteen people have lost their lives and countless others have suffered long term serious mental and physical health impacts, much of which has been kept out of sight of the Australian public.

Despite the evacuation of refugees from Nauru earlier this year, more than 62 people forced to Papua New Guinea still remain stranded in Port Moresby and more than one thousand live in Australia without a clear pathway to permanency and rebuilding their lives. Recent reports have also confirmed that new cohorts of people have been taken to Nauru in recent weeks.

A Royal Commission into Immigration Detention would:
● Summon witnesses to appear, and provide legal protection so they can give evidence without fear
● Compel individuals or organisations to produce confidential documents, such as incident reports and commercial contracts
● Provide transparency by holding public hearings and publishing reports
● Recommend urgent reforms, that would make Australia compliant with a legal, humane and sustainable immigration policy

Behrouz Boochani, Author, Journalist and refugee formerly held on Manus Island:
“We recorded the history of this tragedy that still is going on but it is very important that we have an official investigation about it.

“People of Australia have this right to know the truth, we refugees and the families who have been damaged have the right to be heard. We call for a Royal Commission because of truth, humanity and history.”

Betelhem Tibebu, Human Rights Activist and refugee formerly held on Nauru:
“I was in my early twenties – the golden age. I was supposed to achieve university study. I was a basketball player. I was an accountant. But I lost all these things – just gone in those five years.

“We didn’t get any proper treatment as we got our refugee status. They didn’t look after us, we were denied healthcare, showers, telephone, clothes. It was not safe, especially for the kids and single women. Single women were not safe on that island.

“I hope a Royal Commission will give us our rights that we deserve, give back our normal life and give us our peace. The Royal Commission will give us what we lost in those tents – our future, our motivation, our hope, our light.”

Thanush Selvarasa, Human Rights Activist and refugee formerly held on Manus Island, PNG and in the Mantra “hotel prison” in Melbourne:
“I lost eight years of my valuable time in indefinite detention, which nobody can give back.
Every day in my life, I don’t have anything to achieve my goals, no permanency. It has
deeply, very strongly impacted my life and others who were with me in detention.

“We can’t accept any more pain in our life. We need to recover and move forward in our life.
That’s why we need the Royal Commission, to find out the truth about what happened to us
and give some justice for us.”

Julie Macken, Justice and Peace Facilitator and Campaign Lead:
“This policy has been a wrecking ball through the lives of thousands of people, kids, families and old folks. It is time to take it out of the political arena and have a sober and forensic look at what has been going on with Australia’s detention regime.

“Between High Court challenges, the sacking of a senior bureaucrat and ongoing stories of corruption, abuse and sexual assaults, now is the time to let a royal commission reveal the truth of what is being done in our name.”

MP Kylea Tink, Independent Federal Member for North Sydney:
“30 years of a regime built on indefinite and arbitrary detention has caused immense damage to our country’s reputation and to the lives of so many.

“Times up. We must, as a nation, hold ourselves to account and not only reform our policies but allow a Royal Commission to finally tell the whole story.

“Refugee families can be held for years in poor conditions, with no indication of when or how they would be released. As it stands, the average time people spend in immigration detention facilities in Australia is an extraordinary 708 days. That’s nearly 2 years.
“This detention comes at a huge cost to taxpayers which each individual estimated to cost around $200,000 per year or nearly $9.7billion in the last 9 years.
“The time for political posturing is over; we must act decisively to rebuild our international reputation as a champion of human rights and a nation committed to compassion and fairness.”

Nick McKim, Immigration and Citizenship spokesperson for the Australian Greens:
“Immigration detention has been one of the darkest and bloodiest chapters in our country’s story. It is time we wrote the ending, but we can’t do that while we continue to hide from the truth.

“Australia’s detention policies are brutal, designed to dehumanise, and have destroyed countless lives. We need a Royal Commission to uncover the truth, to hold those responsible to account and to make sure we never go down this dark path again.”

Campaign for a Royal Commission Into Immigration Detention organisations:
Justice and Peace Office, Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney
Josephite Action Network
House of Welcome
Brigidine Asylum Seekers Project
Rural Australians for Refugees
Asylum Seeker Resource Centre
Challenging Racism Project
Refugee Action Coalition
Our Lady of Dolours
Blue Mountains Refugee Support Group
Academics for Refugees
Grandmothers for Refugees
Teachers for Refugees
End Childhood Detention

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