The sign draped across the front of the four MPs’ makeshift prison cell read: “INDEFINITE DETENTION IS TORTURE.”
Samantha Ratnam MLC, Ellen Sandell MP, Sam Hibbins MP and Dr Tim Read MP were all locked inside the “Freedom Cage” earlier this month in solidarity with the 32 refugees indefinitely detained. Since November 2019, these men have been held up in Melbourne, first at the Mantra Hotel in Preston and now at the Park Hotel in Carlton, Victoria.
Ms. Ratnam, leader of the Greens, staged this protest to send a dual message to Australia’s state and federal governments: current detention policies must change, and the Greens stand in solidarity with the mistreated refugees and their families. On March 2nd, 2022, the Greens wrote in their statement: “The tragic reality is, until both the Liberal and Labor parties abandon their cruel, punitive policies of offshore detention and accept refugees, Australia will continue to cruelly lock up vulnerable people seeking asylum.”
The refugees have been held since November 2019 with no end in sight. This story sounds much like the story of Mehdi Ali, an Iranian asylum-seeker. Ali arrived in Australia at 15 years old and was held in a detention until he was 25. A justification for his imprisonment was never offered, but Ali is now finally a properly recognized refugee in the United States, not Australia.
Australia’s treatment towards asylum-seekers and refugees in recent years has been disappointing. However, since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Australia’s tone towards supporting refugees has been more positive. Australia seems to have a preference for Ukrainian asylum-seekers, and so they are generally treated better than asylum-seekers from the Middle East, Southeast Asia, the Indian Subcontinent, and elsewhere. Why couldn’t Mehdi Ali be offered the same treatment?