2022 - April to June - Offshore Refugee Cohort News
A new series of free lunch time webinars was launched by the Refugee Council of Australia (Asylum Insight).
Since 2017, the Refugee Council of Australia has held annual conferences on improving policy, practice and public support. These conferences have brought together participants from refugee backgrounds, academia, service provision, advocacy, policymaking, government and engaged individuals to collaborate and discuss policy and practice.
Following on from five years of successful conferences, we are now hosting regular, free webinars on a range of topics.
Last remaining Park Hotel detainees among 20 released from immigration detention, advocates say
More ex-offshore refugees were released from onshore detention. Less than 10 of the medically evacuated group of refugees remain in onshore detention.
Advocates say three detainees in the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation (MITA) detention centre in Broadmeadows have also been released while six have been released from the Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation (BITA) detention centre in Pinkenba (SBS 2022).
UNHCR News Comment on the Release of Refugees from Detention
UNHCR has long advocated for an end to mandatory detention in Australia, where the average period of time that refugees are held has increased to 925 days. It is worth noting that in Australia’s criminal justice system, any person who has served their sentence may re-enter the community. By contrast, refugees and other stateless people owed international protection, who are unable to return home, are increasingly being detained for long periods with no hope of release.
Throughout UNHCR’s monitoring of these detention facilities over the past decade, we have witnessed first-hand the detrimental impacts of Australia’s detention system and the consequences that extended detention has on the health and well-being of people seeking safety and protection.
Every person has the universal right to seek asylum with dignified and humane treatment, as enshrined in international law. We urge Australia to move from mandatory detention to a more humane approach that upholds its obligations and prevents further harm to those owed our protection
In Australia, there are currently 145,964 persons of concern to UNHCR, including 55,606 refugees and 82,832 asylum seekers and 8,227 stateless persons.
The average period of time held in detention for persons who have previously held a protection visa or humanitarian visa was 925 days.
757 asylum seekers (including those unsuccessful in their claims), humanitarian entrants and refugees were held in an immigration detention facility (excluding persons transferred from Nauru or PNG).
From 1 January 2017 to 31 December 2021 there have been 16 deaths in immigration detention. During this same period there have also been 968 incidents of self-harm (actual) and 2177 incidents of self-harm (threatened)
Factcheck: is Labor’s policy on asylum seekers and refugees any different to the Coalition’s?
Boat turnbacks, offshore detention and third-country resettlement have bipartisan support. Does Labor differ at all from the government?
... The Labor leader replied “yes” but later clarified his answer, saying that although Labor supports offshore processing and resettlement in third countries: “We don’t support temporary protection visas.”
... According to the Coalition’s policy document, the main measures for Operation Sovereign Borders were to:
Reintroduce temporary protection visas for people found to be refugees
Hold asylum seekers in detention on Manus Island and Nauru while processing their refugee claims
Instruct the Australian defence force to turn back boats “where it is safe to do so”
Did Labor always support this?
No. In 2007 Labor was elected promising to end the “Pacific solution” of offshore processing, and instead hold asylum seekers at Christmas Island while processing their refugee applications.
After asylum seeker boats restarted, Labor reintroduced offshore processing – so this element of the policy was bipartisan by the time of the 2013 election.
Labor didn’t fully close the door on boat turnbacks but they were an ambiguous feature of Labor policy until a change championed by the then leader, Bill Shorten, at the party’s 2015 conference.
Before that conference Albanese criticised the change, and he voted againstit, explaining that he “couldn’t ask someone else to do something that [he] couldn’t”.
But in 2018 Albanese reversed his position, explaining that “circumstances had changed”. “The government’s policies have stopped the boats,” he said. “They’re not coming, so the circumstances of rejecting boat arrivals has been achieved.”
Full article online (Karp 2022)
The Human Rights Law Centre has slammed the Morrison government’s continued use of Nauru for offshore processing, saying that leaked emails from Nauru police demonstrate the appalling disregard for refugees and asylum seekers detained there.
Earlier this week, a trove of emails belonging to the Nauru Police Force were published online, purportedly by a group of anonymous hackers protesting Australia’s policy of mandatory offshore processing. The Human Rights Law Centre has slammed the Morrison government’s continued use of Nauru for offshore processing, saying that leaked emails from Nauru police demonstrate the appalling disregard for refugees and asylum seekers detained there.
Former Manus Island guard reaches settlement with G4S, Commonwealth over 2014 riots. Chandra Osborne is one of at least 20 former guards to have launched legal action in recent years, having argued security contractor G4S and the federal government failed to provide a safe workplace and that the riots over three days in February 2014 left former staffers traumatised and suffering serious mental health problems.
Iranian asylum seeker Reza Berati, 24, was murdered by two PNG detention centre security staff during the prolonged violence, which also included riots by some detainees and PNG nationals outside trying to force their way into the centre.
Osborne’s lawyers argued at trial she was exposed to sustained acts of violence and threats while trapped inside the centre for hours after she was sent in by her employer without a radio to gather intelligence. The experience left her with ongoing post-traumatic stress disorder, major depression, anxiety, nightmares and flashbacks (Cooper 2022)
For 19,000 people, this election could open the door to life
In Australia today, more than 32,000 people who arrived by boat live as an effective underclass, with no end in sight. Their rights depend on their visa types. Many young people are prevented from studying at university, despite having grown up and gone to school here. Most are allowed to work, but some cannot access income support, meaning if they’re unable to work they must rely on the community for food and essentials.
This election represents a sliding-door moment for thousands of temporary visa holders in this country: if the Morrison government retains power, nothing changes. If Labor wins, it has promised to grant permanent visas to more than 19,000 people Australia has already recognised as refugees, but who live in an endless limbo (Hall).
PM says election day asylum seeker boat texts "disgraceful"
The Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says his office told Scott Morrison's office NOT to release the information about the boat, but they did it anyway - in what Mr Albanese now labels a "disgraceful act." He says text messages sent by the Liberal party to voters on election day about the interception of a boat carrying asylum seekers were an "abuse of proper process" (Mealey).
Prime Minister Scott Morrison confronted at Parramatta Eid event by Afghan woman pleading for family's rescue
A desperate Afghan woman has pleaded with Scott Morrison for help to get her family to Australia, as he attended morning Eid prayers in Western Sydney. A tearful Hijara Taufiq approached the Prime Minister in Parramatta, fearful her family's lives were at risk under the Taliban's rule in Afghanistan, unable to flee because they did not have visas or passports.
"We're bringing thousands and thousands of people from Afghanistan — 16,500 we'll be bringing, and we'll do everything we can," Mr Morrison responded. He then brought the Liberal's candidate for Parramatta, Maria Kovacic, into the conversation and said she would help push the case (Doran).
Australia election 2022: Are Australia's refugee releases an election ploy?
"My son was 14 when we came to detention, and he's now 24 - it's not fair."
Salah pauses. He and his son Mustafa were released from Australian immigration detention last month along with six other migrants who were being detained at Melbourne's Park Hotel, the controversial detention venue where tennis star Novak Djokovic was held earlier this year. Salah, 51, says they have lost too much time. He and the other refugees didn't do anything wrong, he says, so why did they wait nine years to be released? And why has it suddenly happened now?
In reality, the offshore systems became notorious for their poor and dangerous conditions, which seriously traumatised some refugees, including children. Ian Rintoul, activist and spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition, agrees the releases are simply an "opportunistic calculation" by the government (Osbourne)
‘Abolish Border Force’: Greens also want offshore detention royal commission
The Greens will promise to abolish Australian Border Force and hand over its responsibilities to a re-established customs agency, police and the military, as it looks to ramp up pressure on Labor over its policies on asylum seekers in a minority government.
. Releasing the party’s full suite of immigration policies on Thursday, Greens leader Adam Bandt and immigration spokesman Nick McKim will vow to “push” Labor into ending offshore detention and boat turnbacks if they hold the balance of power in parliament after the election (Galloway).
Refugee children handed anti-‘illegal migration’ playing cards, Australian charity says
Cards branded with Australian government’s Zero Chance logo and QR code to border force website distributed in Indonesia.
Playing cards adorned with the Australian government’s Zero Chance campaign against “illegal migration” were distributed to refugee children in Indonesia by people trespassing on school grounds, the charity running the school alleges. The playing cards were allegedly given to children during break time at the Cisarua refugee learning centre in West Java (Gillespie) .
'Still in limbo': What's happening to those released from Park Hotel?
The recently released Park Hotel refugees face an uncertain future, living in limbo under the constraints of six-month bridging visas. They're now looking to the new government to take urgent action.
It’s been just over two months since the last remaining detainees were released from Melbourne’s Park Hotel, many have not been able to see their families and are still living in limbo... “After nine years, refugees are still separated from their family, have to re-apply for visas after six months and are unable to rebuild their lives with any certainty. Resettlement options must be urgently prioritised" (Kellaway).
Refugees on COVID-hit Nauru say they will run out of food within days
Refugees on Nauru have issued a desperate plea for help, saying they are just days away from running out of food. The tiny island nation recorded its first two COVID-19 cases on March 31 on a passenger flight. Case numbers have since ballooned, with 861 recorded on Thursday – up from 337 reported on Sunday (Hall)
Welcome, strangers: Queen’s Birthday Honour for asylum seeker advocate
When Sister Brigid Arthur was a teacher at schools in Melbourne’s west, from the mid-1950s to the early 1990s, she was moved by the resilience of local immigrant families. She saw that with help from the community, they could not just survive but thrive. It’s something she’s seen with many of the thousands of asylum seekers she’s assisted over the past 30 years.
Arthur, an 87-year-old Brigidine nun, has been recognised for her work with an AO (Officer in the General Division of the Order of Australia) in the 2022 Queen’s Birthday Honours (Webb).
Father Rod Bower reflected on the moral injury implications for Australians from our treatment of asylum seekers
What does standing by while bad things happen do to us? That’s the question Father Rod Bower has been asking himself. For almost 10 years, Father Rod, wrote messages in support of refugees, climate action and same-sex marriage on the sign out the front of his Gosford Church. But, according to him, years of political point scoring on these issues has done more than just delay action – it’s injured us all (Bower).
Bower, Rod 2022, How do you heal a moral injury?, 7amPodcast, June 2022, https://7ampodcast.com.au/episodes/how-do-you-heal-a-moral-injury
Cooper A, Pearson E 2022, Former Manus Island guard reaches settlement with G4S, Commonwealth over 2014 riots, Sydney Morning herald (SMH), https://www.smh.com.au/national/former-manus-island-guard-reaches-settlement-with-g4s-commonwealth-over-2014-riots-20220513-p5al0g.htmlhttps://www.smh.com.au/national/former-manus-island-guard-reaches-settlement-with-g4s-commonwealth-over-2014-riots-20220513-p5al0g.html
Crikey 2022, Appalling disregard’: Australia’s offshore processing slammed after leaked emails show Nauru police mocking suicide, self-harm threats, https://www.crikey.com.au/2022/05/05/nauru-police-force-emails-refugees-asylum-seeker-self-harm-suicide/
Doran, Matthew 2022, Prime Minister Scott Morrison confronted at Parramatta Eid event by Afghan woman pleading for family's rescue, ABC News, https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-05-02/scott-morrison-confronted-by-afghan-woman-while-campaigning/101030990
Galloway, Anthony 2022, ‘Abolish Border Force’: Greens also want offshore detention royal commission, The Sydney Morning Herald, May 2022, https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/abolish-border-force-greens-also-want-offshore-detention-royal-commission-20220511-p5akgo.html
Gillespie, Eden 2022, Refugee children handed anti-‘illegal migration’ playing cards, Australian charity says, The Guardian, May 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2022/may/26/refugee-children-handed-anti-illegal-migration-playing-cards-australian-charity-says
Hall, Bianca 2022, For 19,000 people, this election could open the door to life, The Age, May 2022. https://www.theage.com.au/national/for-19-000-people-this-election-could-open-the-door-to-life-20220427-p5aghz.html
Hall, Bianca 2022, Refugees on COVID-hit Nauru say they will run out of food within days, Sydney Morning Herald, June 2022, https://www.smh.com.au/national/refugees-on-covid-hit-nauru-say-they-will-run-out-of-food-within-days-20220623-p5aw6v.html
Karp, Paul 2022, Factcheck: is Labor’s policy on asylum seekers and refugees any different to the Coalition’s?, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2022/apr/19/factcheck-is-labors-policy-on-asylum-seekers-and-refugees-any-different-to-the-coalitions
Kellaway, Emma 2022, 'Still in limbo': What's happening to those released from Park Hotel? SBS News, June 2022, https://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/still-in-limbo-whats-happening-to-those-released-from-park-hotel/y334briy5
Mealey, Rachel 2022, PM says election day asylum seeker boat texts "disgraceful", ABC News, May 2022, https://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/worldtoday/pm-says-election-day-asylum-seeker-boat-texts-disgraceful/13902690
Osborne 2022, Australia election 2022: Are Australia's refugee releases an election ploy?, BBC News, May 2022, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-australia-61423035
Refugee Council of Australia, 2022, The Federal Budget: What it means for refugees and people seeking humanitarian protection, https://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/federal-budget-summary/
Refugee Council (RCA) 2022, Refugee Alternatives, https://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/refugee-alternatives/
SBS News 2022, Last remaining Park Hotel detainees among 20 released from immigration detention, advocates say, https://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/last-remaining-park-hotel-detainees-among-20-released-from-immigration-detention-advocates-say/wim4jis74
UNHCR 2022, This statement may be attributed to Adrian Edwards, UNHCR Representative for Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific, in Canberra. https://www.unhcr.org/en-au/news/press/2022/4/624fb0ee4/unhcr-news-comment-on-the-release-of-refugees-from-detention.html
Wahlquist, Calla 2022, More refugees released from detention ahead of Australian election, The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2022/apr/02/more-refugees-released-from-detention-ahead-of-australian-election?
Webb, Carolyn 2022, Welcome, strangers: Queen’s Birthday Honour for asylum seeker advocate, The Age, June 2022, https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/welcome-strangers-queen-s-birthday-honour-for-asylum-seeker-advocate-20220609-p5asdw.html