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2023 Australia: Offshore Refugee Cohort & other News

1 July 2023

I know firsthand the torture of offshore detention. How can Labor maintain such a racist system?

... It has been crawling around me, trying to shut me up and take me down for all these years. The physical and mental damages caused by Australian racism and its border regime has become deeply rooted in our souls, like a malignant cancerous tumour which is growing day by day. All the former detainees, including myself, are still suffering from these post-trauma issues, and as time goes by, we discover how serious and permanent the harm has been.

It sounds like fearful, negative voices in our heads, and feels like a horrifying dark shadow hanging over us, even outside that prison – especially for those of the former detainees who are still living in Australia and experiencing the same traumas they had to deal with inside the detention centres.

I never stopped fighting for the freedom of everyone who was still detained in Nauru and Manus detention centres or those who were medically evacuated to Australia. I put my whole life into my activism for these refugees, using my art, writing and documentary film-making, and any other way I could to raise awareness and stop the brutal business model of detaining refugees in offshore detention centres.

I wish I could say it was great news to hear that, after a decade of exile, imprisonment and torture, all refugees are finally evacuated from their Australian nightmare on Nauru island, but unfortunately I do not feel that way. Unlike what I had believed for years, I am deeply disappointed and have given up hope in Australian human rights. The few genuine activists left cannot carry Australia’s entire human rights burden on their shoulders (Zivardar 2023)


2 July 2023

Nauru: Why Australia is funding an empty detention centre

Described as a place of "indefinite despair" and "sustained abuse" by visitors from Médecins Sans Frontières and Human Rights Watch, the Nauru centre is a thorn in the side of Australia's human rights record.

... Despite the facility sitting vacant, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese's government will spend vast sums of money - including A$486m (£255m; $320m) this year - to keep Nauru open as a deterrent.

... It was introduced by a conservative prime minister, John Howard. When he left office in 2007, the policy was suspended by Kevin Rudd's Labor government, before being resumed - also under Labor - in 2012, initially as a stop-gap measure following a spike in boat crossings.

Successive politicians defended the policy as key to protecting Australia's borders and saving lives at sea.

But researchers have argued it did little to curb either maritime arrivals or deaths. Both dropped from 2014 onwards, when the government quietly shifted to boat "turnbacks" - an approach that removes migrant vessels from Australian waters and sends those on board back to their countries of departure (Ritchie 2023).


6 July 2023

Australian government’s detention of a refugee in Melbourne hotels ruled legal by court

Justice Bernard Murphy dismisses Mostafa ‘Moz’ Azimitabar’s application but delivers scathing rebuke of hotel detention policy

Murphy ruled the federal government did have the appropriate legal authorisation to detain Azimitabar in two Melbourne hotels, but delivered a scathing rebuke of the policy and said his judgment should not be seen as an endorsement.

“I can only wonder of the lack of thought, indeed the lack of care and humanity, in detaining a person with psychiatric and psychological problems in the hotels [for] 14 months,” Murphy said. “Primarily, in hotel rooms with windows that only opened 10 centimetres and for most of the time, without access to an outdoor area or to breathe fresh air or feel the sun on his face.

“Anyone who endured even two weeks of hotel quarantine during the Covid-19 pandemic would surely understand how difficult it must have been. As a matter of ordinary human decency, the applicant should not have been detained for such a period of time in those conditions.

“The decision in this case does not turn on the humanity of the applicant’s detention, it is about whether the minister had power under the act to approve hotels as places of immigration detention. The minister had, and has, the power to do so (Belot 2023)


6 July 2023

The hotel that lacks ‘ordinary human decency’

It’s shocking what they can get away with

The Guardian, 6 July 2023


6 July 2023

'It's not OK': Mostafa ‘Moz’ Azimitabar speaks after Australia's hotel detention ruled legal – video

Speaking outside the federal court in Melbourne, Mostafa 'Moz' Azimitabar said he was 'proud' of himself and activists fighting to support refugees. 'The judge said some words with sympathy,' Azimitabar said. 'It's not OK [for] someone who is suffering from asthma, from PTSD, to be locked up in a room, but it's legal that a minister open a building and put sick people inside a hotel and use it as a prison.'

After fleeing persecution in Iran, Azimitabar was held in offshore detention in Papua New Guinea for more than six years before he was brought to Australia under medevac laws for treatment and detained in two Melbourne hotels for 15 months. Azimitabar sought damages from the federal government for what he believed was an unlawful detention and while Justice Bernard Murphy found the government had the appropriate legal authorisation to detain him, he was clear that the decision should not be seen as an endorsement of hotel detention. Azimitabar’s lawyer, Michael Bradley from Marque Lawyers, said his team would consider whether to appeal the decision and contest costs, arguing the case was clearly in the public interest (Favazzo 2023).


July 2023

Nauru doctor: Where did all the millions go?

... On one hand, he could toe the Australian Border Force line and keep all his patients on Nauru, whatever their illnesses. In that case, Jones says, he could continue collecting a generous salary and the gratitude of the governments of Nauru and Australia.

Alternatively, he could act in what he came to see as the best interests of his patients – the asylum seekers and refugees in Australia’s offshore processing system.

In many cases, this was to transfer them to Australia for proper treatment. That option risked putting Jones himself on an early flight home, choosing between chicken and fish.

Just over three weeks after arriving on Nauru, Jones was on that flight when the Nauru government suddenly revoked his visa. The senior site manager told him that if no plane had been scheduled to leave the following morning, he would have found himself in detention (SMH 2023).


July 2023

Peter Dutton briefed by AFP on suspected corrupt contractor before department signed multi-million Nauru deal

The prime minister says Peter Dutton must answer why the former government entered into contracts with a man suspected of bribing Nauruan officials despite being warned by the Australian Federal Police.

Mozammil Gulamabass "Mozu" Bhojani pled guilty to bribing foreign public officials in order to obtain advantage for one of his businesses and was convicted in August of 2020.

As first reported in Nine Newspapers, the AFP confirmed that the agency had briefed then-home affairs minister Mr Dutton about Bhojani just months before he was charged with bribery offences.

Mr Dutton's department had contracts with Bhojani's company Radiance International to provide accommodation services for refugees on Nauru (Evans 2023).


18 July 2023

Pain continues in PNG 10 years on

Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) has called on the Australian Government to recommit to finding solutions for 80 refugees still suffering in Papua New Guinea 10 years after the two governments signed their offshore processing agreement.

In the lead-up to this week’s bitter 10th anniversary of the Regional Resettlement Arrangement between the Australian and PNG governments, RCOA has written to Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil urging the Albanese Government to work with the PNG Government to find permanent safety for refugees still in PNG.

“We hold grave concerns for those who remain in PNG and continue to suffer in misery a decade on,” RCOA CEO Paul Power said.

“Our gravest concerns are for the refugees in PNG with the most acute mental health needs, especially those identified by UNHCR as being eligible for resettlement but too unwell to engage in any resettlement process (RCOA)


19 July 2023

Why I am suing the Australian government over my hotel detention after being brought from Manus Island

Medevac was supposed to give us access to medicine and healthcare but forced our bodies into small hotel rooms that we could not escape.

Trauma is like having a blade inside of you, but you can’t find where it is. I find healing instead through connecting with people and fighting for justice. Which is why I am taking this case to court to show that I have a choice but also to bring kindness back to Australia. To show that I appreciate the connection that I have with good Australians.

My story is unique, but I know many Australians know the ugly embodiment of trauma and have experienced their own journey to recovery. For me, it is important to tell the truth about what happened in the prisons and communicate a message of love.

The horrific situation forced me to be creative. I learned to paint with simple tools – coffee and a toothbrush – to challenge how they named me with a number: KNS088.

I used these tools as weapons, even though they were not sharp. The words “you are illiterate, you are illegal” try to imprison me in a different way now.

I can use coffee and a toothbrush to become a finalist for the most prestigious art prize in Australia, the Archibald prize, but I cannot study art here. If I could study, what could I become? (Azimitabar 2023)


22 July 2023

Morrison government struck secret deal to pay PNG to take refugees and asylum seekers

The Australian government is refusing to say how much it is paying to Papua New Guinea in a secret agreement to hold about 75 refugees and asylum seekers in Port Moresby.

Parliamentary documents have revealed for the first time this week that the Morrison government signed a “confidential bilateral agreement” with PNG in December 2021, paying the PNG government to provide welfare and support for refugees forcibly sent to PNG by Australia.

The Morrison government did not announce the existence of the agreement, and, more than 18 months later, the Albanese government has consistently refused to provide any detail, saying that information would do “damage to the international relations of the commonwealth [of Australia]” (Doherty 2023).


23 July 2023

Millions of dollars in detention money went to Pacific politicians

Australia’s Department of Home Affairs oversaw the payment of millions of taxpayer dollars to powerful Pacific Island politicians through a chain of suspect contracts.

Financial data, internal emails and whistleblower testimony implicate Home Affairs’ lead contractors – Broadspectrum, Canstruct and Paladin – in suspected systemic misuse of taxpayer dollars in Nauru and Papua New Guinea.

... Internal company emails also reveal that some taxpayer-funded services were tainted by overcharging, raising concerns among senior employees of Home Affairs’ then lead contractor, Broadspectrum.

Queensland-based family company Canstruct, which was paid $1.82 billion over five years to run the Nauru centre after Broadspectrum pulled out, confirmed that one arrangement – to pay millions to a company linked to Nauru’s then president to deliver water – had the backing of Home Affairs (SMH 2023).


24 July 2023

Dutton told of contractor’s corruption cloud weeks before $9m deal awarded

Just one month after the Home Affairs Department signed the contract, police arrested Mozammil Bhojani and charged him with paying more than $100,000 in bribes.

...Documents tabled in federal parliament reveal that the AFP’s acting commissioner told Dutton in July 2018 that Sydney-based Mozammil Bhojani was under investigation over suspected bribes to Nauruan politicians. The payments were made to secure preferential access to millions of dollars worth of phosphate for his company Radiance International.

But despite the verbal police warning to Dutton, documents obtained by this masthead show that the following month – August 2018 – the Department of Home Affairs entered into a fresh contract with Radiance. The contract, signed by Bhojani, was to provide accommodation for refugees and asylum seekers at a particular location. That contract ultimately paid the company $9.3 million in taxpayer money.

Just one month after the contract was signed, police arrested Bhojani and charged him with paying more than $100,000 in bribes to two Nauruan officials. Bhojani pleaded guilty and was convicted in 2020 (SMH 2023).


24 July 2023

How millions of dollars in detention money went to Pacific politicians

Australia's Home Affairs Department used vast sums of taxpayer money to fund suspect payments to powerful Pacific Island politicians, specifically to run offshore processing of asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island. A major investigation by The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald has found a secret money trail beginning in Home Affairs coffers and ending with payments to bank accounts controlled by powerful Pacific Island politicians.

The payments were made by companies engaged by the government to run the facilities: in Nauru, two companies called Broadspectrum and Canstruct, and on Manus Island, a company called Paladin and were for services to help run the facility. The Pacific payments scandal forms a part of a much larger problem within the Home Affairs department. Because while focusing on housing boat arrivals offshore, Home Affairs has taken attention away from its core business of helping legitimate migrants arrive and expelling the rest.

We are not suggesting that any payments were in fact bribes, which is ultimately something that can only be proven by a court. But the deals raise integrity concerns that warrant significant scrutiny by the Department.

Investigative journalists Nick McKenzie and Michael Bachelard on how our Home Affairs Department is failing.


25 July 2023

Dutton pressed to explain why bribery suspect was given detention deal

In a response to a Senate estimates question on notice, the AFP told the Senate’s legal and constitutional affairs committee it had no record of what Mr Dutton was told, nor his response.

But weeks later, the Home Affairs Department entered a contract with Mr Bhojani’s company, Radiance International, to provide accommodation for asylum seekers that ultimately earned the firm $9.2 million. The relevant contract was extended nine times and expired on June 30 this year (Tillet 2023).


26 July 2023

Manus contractor boss paid $1.2m to mother working at Home Affairs

The majority owner of the company that ran Manus Island’s immigration detention centre insists he was only trying to help his mother, who works in the Home Affairs Department, when he transferred more than $1.2 million to her in a series of payments.

The forerunner to the new National Anti-Corruption Commission has investigated the payments and is due to report its findings soon. Some payments were made while the $500 million Home Affairs asylum seeker contract was under way, and several were incorrectly invoiced as “consulting services” and charged via PayPal.

... The Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity’s inquiry into the payments, code-named Operation Bannister, looked into an alleged “corruption issue regarding a series of financial transactions from Paladin accounts to a Home Affairs employee between 2017 and 2020”, an NACC spokesperson said on Tuesday.

While the probe was completed before the NACC’s formation this month, the spokesperson said the investigation report was still being prepared, and it would be premature to disclose any findings until it was complete (SMH 2023).


26 July 2023

We deserve answers on how taxpayers’ money was spent on Nauru and Manus

Nothing less than a royal commission is necessary to expose the corruption now revealed in our offshore detention system.

Really? The contractors running offshore detention on Nauru and Manus Island were merrily paying millions of dollars in bribes (either by way of inflated services contracts or just straight backhanders)? Who could have predicted that?

The collective shrug of ennui that has met the Nine media group’s roll-out of revelations of systemic and massive corruption infecting Australia’s offshore gulag operation tells us that nobody is remotely surprised. Why would we be?

This is taxpayers’ money, funnelled directly into the pockets of foreign politicians as part of the price for being allowed to dump our human refuse on their islands, away from scrutiny and far from care. One contractor was under active Australian Federal Police investigation for alleged bribery when it was handed a lucrative contract by home affairs — after the then-minister now Opposition Leader Peter Dutton had been informed (Bradley 2023).


26 July 2023

Nauru Doctor speaks out for the first time

Doctor Chris Jones speaks about how the millions flowing to Nauru under Australia's offshore detention policies were used, and the the "tsunami" of misery the policy created.

Transcript: I arrived just at the time when the children were starting to go on Hunger Strike self-harming fluid and food refusal most of my patients at the outset were these children who were at risk of self-harm and worse that made up about 50 of the cases.

Is there any singular case that sticks in your mind?

The 13 year old Middle Eastern boy who had to see me at the hospital because he had abdominal pain and blood in the urine for a couple of weeks and the doctors hadn't been able to to treat him properly but at the intervening time the past week he stopped eating so I was asked to assess him and assess the risks. He was 13, he left Indonesia five years ago so he was eight or nine, got in the boat, got picked up in the Indian Ocean, transferred with his family to Christmas Island for processing and then deposited in that route on the other side of the Australian continent where I'd been for five years. So you've got a 13 year old boy who's depressed withdrawn no hope for the future, um entering puberty and he was desperate so his pain was more emotional than physical.

I spent about an hour and a half in his room with his mum and his brother trying to persuade him that he needed to go for for his care and he just he just laid curl up in the corner on the floor. So he's not going, he'd rather die than be transferred to Taiwan because the system of medical transfers that the Australian government have with Taiwan and PNG is that once your medical or mental health condition has been stabilized and treated you're then brought back to Nauru. He didn't want that at all and he would rather not be here if that was the case and that was a turning point because it became obvious that one of these children might die, either through misadventure, deliberate self-harm or or medical causes.

I told my bosses and my MP that unless things changed dramatically, with evacuations, I couldn't let this happen on my watch and I'd be out of there and I'd resign.


26 July 2023

Minister invokes corruption watchdog over offshore detention scandal

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil has invoked the new national corruption watchdog in response to allegations of government contractors’ suspect payments to Pacific Island officials involved in Australia’s offshore detention program, as Labor, Liberal and crossbench MPs call for an independent inquiry.

O’Neil said the claims of improper use of taxpayer dollars by companies contracted by Home Affairs were “deeply concerning” and that she would respond more fully after reviewing information revealed in the Home Truths investigative series by The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and 60 Minutes.

... There is no suggestion that Dutton himself played a part in signing the contracts.

Dutton’s office declined to comment on behalf of the Liberal leader, who is on leave, beyond saying that Home Affairs gave out contracts without ministerial oversight, a point previously made by department secretary Mike Pezzullo in a parliamentary hearing (Thompson 2023).


29 July 2023

Boats, borders and bad guys: How a super department has come unstuck

In late 2020, an alarming file began circulating in the Department of Home Affairs. The file, from money-laundering watchdog AUSTRAC, raised the spectre that a number of senior Nauruan politicians might be involved in corruption using a series of Australian bank accounts.

These were not just any Pacific politicians. They were Nauru’s gatekeepers, people who had the power to dictate the direction of a policy cherished by both the Coalition and Labor: offshore refugee processing.

In the language of corruption fighters, they were “politically exposed persons”, and Home Affairs and its contractors should have been particularly careful and transparent in their dealings with them.

One of these politicians held a key Home Affairs contract and made millions of dollars from it. The contracts were signed and paid from Australia with the full knowledge and approval of the lead contractors and, above them, Home Affairs itself.

When Home Affairs was set up in 2017 as a single mega-department, bringing together customs, immigration and Border Force with ASIO, the Australian Federal Police, the anti-money laundering agency AUSTRAC and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC), then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull spruiked it as a “structure to meet the challenge of the times”. It would, he said, “entrench the co-operation between the agencies”.

Home Affairs’ head, Mike Pezzullo, put it rather more colourfully. He invoked a “dark universe” brought into being by the “globalisation of terror, crime and, indeed, evil”. What the country needed, the secretary said in an October 2017 speech, was a “single department with a single accountable minister” running the latest possible technology. Alongside defence and foreign affairs, it would be Australia’s “third force of security”. (Bachelard 2023)

31 July 2023

Dennis Richardson to lead inquiry into Home Affairs bribery allegations

The government has appointment former Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade secretary Dennis Richardson to lead a review into the Department of Home Affairs, following allegations of bribery in offshore detention contracts (Landis-Handley 2023).


9 August 2023

Why a good man, Home Affairs boss Mike Pezzullo, must fall

Last week, the prime minister announced the appointment of Dennis Richardson to investigate allegations, first broken in this masthead, of irregularities in the awarding of contracts for the construction and operation of offshore processing facilities on Nauru. At their most serious, the allegations suggest the facilitation of corruption by Nauruan officials. At least, they indicate seriously deficient due diligence by the Department of Home Affairs.

The Department of Home Affairs is almost entirely Pezzullo’s creation. At the time it came into being, at the end of 2017, Pezzullo had been the secretary of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, under both prime ministers Abbott and Turnbull. From early in the life of the Abbott government, Pezzullo agitated for the creation of a national security super-department, which would combine immigration and border protection with domestic security, including the Australian Federal Police, other law-enforcement agencies and ASIO.

Tony Abbott – always a hawk on national security – was not persuaded of the wisdom of the idea. After the change of prime ministers in 2015, Pezzullo saw his chance to relitigate the issue. Malcolm Turnbull – eager to appease Peter Dutton, who shared Pezzullo’s ambition for a super-department – went along with it over the strong objections of both the Australian Federal Police and ASIO. The then director-general of ASIO, Duncan Lewis (now my colleague at the National Security College), was particularly vehement in his opposition.

... Pezzullo made it perfectly clear that his vision of an omnipresent invisible state was not limited to global networks and supply chains, but applied to civil society itself.

At this point, one is tempted to reach for the much-overused word “Orwellian”. But Pezzullo gave us another adjective. Remarkably, he invoked the 17th century English political philosopher Thomas Hobbes. Hobbes’ great work, Leviathan, was published in 1651, two years after the regicide of Charles I and when England had been torn apart by years of civil war. It argued that the wellbeing of citizens could only be secured by an all-powerful state, embodied in the king.

It is the most important philosophical defence of state power in the English language, the ultimate expression of the case that citizens should surrender their rights to government as the necessary price for the protection it gives (Brandis 2023)


9 August 2023

Australia settles with family of refugee Reza Barati, murdered on Manus Island in 2014

The Australian government has reached a confidential settlement with the family of the refugee Reza Barati, nine years after he was murdered by guards inside the Manus Island detention centre, and two years after his parents sued over his death.

Barati was 23 when he was beaten to death by guards and other contractors during a violent rampage inside the Australian-run offshore detention centre in February 2014. His assailants attacked him with a length of timber spiked with nails, repeatedly kicked and punched him once he had fallen and dropped a large rock on his head.

The government and the security firm G4S have now settled civil proceedings with Barati’s parents, Ita Torab Barati and Farideh Baralak.

“We still feel the pain of Reza’s absence every single day,” his parents said from their village Lomar in Iran’s Kurdistan region (Doherty 2023)

Humanitarian Intake

July 2023

NSW Humanitarian Awards 2023 presented by Refugee Council and STARTTS

Awards recognise those who have made an exceptionally positive contribution towards issues in NSW related to refugees and people seeking asylum (RCOA)


11 August 2023

Increase to Humanitarian Program

he Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, Andrew Giles, has announced that the number of people resettled in Australia’s Humanitarian Program will increase from 17,875 to 20,000 per year.​

This commitment will help ensure Australia plays its part in responding to the global humanitarian crisis, at a time where more than 100 million people are forcibly displaced and more than 2 million people are in urgent need of resettlement worldwide.

The Albanese Labor Government is delivering a humanitarian program that provides refugees with certainty and security as they rebuild their lives in Australia and contribute to our economy and society.

The Albanese Government is committed to securing our borders, while maintaining our sense of humanity and responsibility.

Australia’s Operation Sovereign Borders policy architecture remains unchanged. Anyone who attempts an unauthorised boat voyage to Australia will be turned back to their point of departure, returned to their home country or transferred to another country.

All non-citizens who are found to not engage Australia’s protection obligations and have exhausted all avenues to remain in Australia are expected to depart as soon as possible (Giles).



Azimitabar, Mostafa 2023, Why I am suing the Australian government over my hotel detention after being brought from Manus Island, The Guardian, 19 July 2023,

Bachelard, Michael, Boats, borders and bad guys: How a super department has come unstuck, Sydney Morning Herald, 29 July 2023,

Belot, Henry 2023, Australian government’s detention of a refugee in Melbourne hotels ruled legal by court, The Guardian, 6 July 2023,

Bradley, Michael 2023, We deserve answers on how taxpayers’ money was spent on Nauru and Manus, Crikey, 26 July 2023,

Brandis, George 2023, Why a good man, Home Affairs boss Mike Pezzullo, must fall, Sydney Morning Herald, August 2023,

Doherty, Ben 2023, Morrison government struck secret deal to pay PNG to take refugees and asylum seekers, The Guardian, 22 July 2023,

Doherty, Ben 2023, Australia settles with family of refugee Reza Barati, murdered on Manus Island in 2014, The Guardian, 14 August 2023,

Evans, Jake 2023, Peter Dutton briefed by AFP on suspected corrupt contractor before department signed multi-million Nauru deal, ABC News, 25 July 2023,

Favazzo, Lisa 2023, 'It's not OK': Mostafa ‘Moz’ Azimitabar speaks after Australia's hotel detention ruled legal – video, The Guardian, 6 July 2023,

Giles, Andrew 2023, Increase to Humanitarian Program, Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, Home Affairs Media Release, 11 August, 2023,

Katauskas, Fiona2023, The hotel that lacks ‘ordinary human decency’, The Guardian, 6 July 2023,

McKenzie, N, Bachelard, M 2023, Manus contractor boss paid $1.2m to mother working at Home Affairs, Sydney Morning Herald, 26 July 2023,

McKenzie, N, Bachelard, M, Ballinger, Nauru doctor: Where did all the millions go?, Sydney Morning Herald, 26 July 2023,

McKenzie, N, Bachelard, M, Ballinger, A 2023, Millions of dollars in detention money went to Pacific politicians, Sydney Morning Herald, 23 July 2023,

NSW Humanitarian Awards 2023 presented by Refugee Council and STARTTS, Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA),

Pain continues in PNG 10 years on, Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA)

Ritchie, Hannah 2023, Nauru: Why Australia is funding an empty detention centre, BBC News, 2 July 2023,

Thompson, Angus 2023, Minister invokes corruption watchdog over offshore detention scandal, Sydney Morning Herald, 26 July 2023,

Tillett, Andrew 2023, Dutton pressed to explain why bribery suspect was given detention deal, Australian Financial Review, 25 July 2023,

ZIvardar, Elahe 2023, I know firsthand the torture of offshore detention. How can Labor maintain such a racist system? The Guardian, 1 July 2023,

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