/

After 7 years of suffering, it’s time to end offshore detention, say refugee advocates

Sunday July 19 marked seven years since Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced that people seeking asylum, arriving by boat, will never be settled in Australia and would be processed offshore.

Refugees holding protest signRefugee advocate groups report that, as a result of the offshore detention regime, 13 people have lost their lives, families have been separated and lives and dreams put on hold.

Organisations working with people seeking asylum say that prolonged time in detention is continuing to take a significant toll on the physical and mental well-being of refugees and people seeking asylum.

Jana Favero, Director of Advocacy and Campaigns, Asylum Seeker Resource Centre said: “Seven years without freedom. Seven years in limbo. Seven years of lost opportunities. Enough is enough. The Morrison Government can and must give the men, women and children impacted by the brutality of offshore processing a safe and secure home today. Freedom is a basic human right. Denying people this right is completely wrong and inhumane.”

A statement put out by a coalition of refugee organisations and individuals said: “More than 400 people continue to be trapped by Australia in PNG and Nauru. People transferred to Australia are still languishing in detention facilities, including 120 in hotels, where medical care and safe conditions during COVID19 are grossly inadequate.”

“Countless Parliamentary and Departmental inquiries, UN investigations, reports by the Australian Human Rights Commission, and numerous whistleblowers, including the government’s own doctors have repeatedly told us the same horrific truth – that Australia’s detention regime has delivered gross abuses and has left people who sought safety here in a state of hopelessness.”

“Before the passing of the Medevac legislation, those transferred to Australia for medical treatment was the result of highly taxing and resource intensive court cases that spanned months and years. The average wait for transfer after recommendation was two-to-three years, with some people still waiting for as many as five years for adequate medical treatment.”

“It’s been seven years of deliberate abuse, seven years of appalling conditions and seven years of our Government abrogating its responsibility to fulfil our obligations under the UN Refugee Convention. It’s time for a permanent resettlement solution.”

The group demands that the Morrison Government must either take up New Zealand’s offer of resettlement for those not being considered for the US deal or provide resettlement pathways here at the latest by the end of 2020.

One of the detainees being held in Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation (BITA) Detainee, Farhad Rahmati, is also a civil engineer and human rights activist. In support of the statement, he said: “I have been in seven years of forced isolation. I always wanted to have a family but that opportunity has been taken away from me. In the last seven years I could have had children that are at school but instead I am alone.”

“We are human beings like everyone else. We want to be free, breathing fresh air and to live our lives. Instead our lives are on hold.”

 

Photo: Moz Azimitabar

Sarah Jacob

Sarah Jacob is a journalist and editor and is currently The Advocate's Deputy Editor. She has written for a range of print and online publications across Australia and internationally with a focus on the environment and human rights. Previously she worked in conservation science and protected area management, and has completed postgraduate degrees in journalism and marine science.