Human rights News

Park Hotel may be over but refugee abuse is not

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Refugee rallies over the weekend called on politicians such as Home Affairs Minister to do more for asylum seekers (Image by Dan Jensen)

Following the release of refugee detainees from Park Hotel imprisonment, rallies over the weekend called for more action from the Government, writes Jane Salmon.

PROLONGED HOTEL DETENTION finally ended and many of the Medevac cohorts were freed this week. However, uncertainty has dogged and still haunts the lives of most refugees seeking asylum in Australia since 2012.

Lifelong detention is still occurring. The onshore Medevac releases this week prove that ongoing abuse is based on politics, not compassion or refugee reality.

On Palm Sunday, Australians were urged to say “never again” and to continue to stand up for human rights. 

Australia is still failing refugees. What would a decent approach look like? 

Legendary Australian sporting and social justice hero, Craig Foster OAM, says:

“After almost a decade of refugee torture, it’s clear the appalling period is coming to an end. Still, around 217 are suffering offshore in PNG and Nauru when it’s obvious to all Australians they should all be released immediately. Indefinite detention carries on. We call on [Home Affairs Minister] Karen Andrews and the Morrison Government to do the right thing in our name and let them go.”

The detailed Refugee Council of Australia federal policy platform is listed here.

Palm Sunday is a national day of action for refugee rights. In Australia, it has traditionally been a day when state and local communities and faiths combine to express concern for peace, welcome and understanding. Sunday 10 April 2022 was no different. Medevac detainees may have changed location but their futures are still uncertain.

Twenty regional and metropolitan rallies around the nation called for justice for refugees to highlight the vulnerable lives left in prolonged and painful limbo by Australia. Some of the actions will be peace and justice rallies, highlighting the role of war in creating refugees the world over. 

Key messages: justice and freedom for refugees, the end of detention, permanent visas, safe and secure futures.

Organisers call on all parties and individuals standing for election to be mindful of the need to vote for compassion and to ensure that Australia welcomes the vulnerable. Needless cruelty must stop. Offshore processing in the name of deterrence should not recur.

Live Palm Sunday events were held around the country over the weekend. They were mainly grassroots and community events. Some even included bell ringing.  

Faith leaders are calling for the release of all those still held in indefinite detention. 

Refugees in the community are also struggling from visa to visa (some as short as six weeks) while trying to ensure leases, cars, jobs and a future. Family reunion and study that would guarantee a better future are denied most.

In Perth and Hobart, there were silhouettes representing “lives in limbo” set out on lawns. See image below.

(Image supplied)

In Canberra, the searing Craig Foster was joined by survivors of the cruel refugee detention including Mostafa Azimitabar. A newly arrived Afghani actress also spoke, along with the Anglican Assistant, Bishop Carol Wagner.

In Melbourne, music enlivened speeches that crossed the religious spectrum. Reverend Tim Costello spoke at the Melbourne Walk for Justice and was joined by refugee speakers, faith leaders and writer and refugee advocate Arnold Zable.

Lives can be changed at the whim of a minister granted “God powers” under the current Government. The irony of a single individual, no matter their character, holding the key to so many futures should not be lost during a festival that celebrates the welcome of Jesus to Jerusalem and his path to crucifixion at the behest of imperial Governor Pontius Pilate

Recent deaths in detention highlight the operations for which federal insurance body Comcare may yet be found liable. It has attracted strong criticism from the ombudsman, coroners and every level of the courts. The processes by which contracts for running detention are awarded have also attracted the criticism of those seeking more integrity in federal operations. 

The latest releases will make processing new arrivals easier. Long overdue announcements that Australia will accept 15,000 Afghan refugees (over four years) come six months after the crisis in Afghanistan and extensive lobbying by refugee groups and advocates highlights the lumbering bureaucracy and discrimination affecting others fleeing wars in which Australia has played a military role.

The differing responses to the plight of Afghan and Ukraine refugees are hard to ignore.

Jane Salmon is a refugee advocate. You can follow her on Twitter @jsalmonupstream.

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