The Detention of Refugees in Australia
Adam Bandt, the leader of Australian Greens MP, is one of the thousands of protestors that are calling for the end of mandatory and indefinite detention of refugees that are currently detained behind closed doors in Australia.
2021 marked close to eight years since the Australian government introduced offshore processing of refugees seeking asylum. At this very moment there are hundreds of people being held in mainland Australia and the offshore prisons of Manus and Nauru. Adults and children are being held for weeks, months, or even years in mainland detention centers with no clear end in sight of leaving the four walls that surround them. Those remaining in the offshore detention centers, are all adults, and the majority have been there since 2013.
“Even God can’t help you here.”
Nauru refugees have said of the camp.
The treatment and affects
The situation is critical because the treatment of refugees in these places can affect their mental and physical health. Some refugees have suffered severe abuse, inhumane treatment and neglect, leading to mental health issues such as depression. Bandt claims that detention centers are “mental illness factories” and “when you treat people like this you break them.” The few that were able to leave these centers definitely agree and stand by him to fight for the basic human rights people deserve.
In fact, seeking asylum in Australia, or elsewhere, is not illegal and people are entitled to the protection of their human rights, including the right to seek asylum, regardless of how or where they arrive in Australia or any other country.
Regardless of how these refugees are being treated, most would rather stay in this horrific situation than return to the conflict and dangers they would face in their home countries. With uncertainty for their future, they are losing hope of making Australia their home.
The United States has taken in more than 700 people from Australia through a resettlement arrangement, and over the years the Australian government transferred more than 1 200 asylum seekers back to Australia for medical treatment. Some Australian refugees who are in Australia live with uncertainty due to temporary bridging visas but more than 200 are still detained in centers or hotels.
Australia has a procedure in place to decide whether a person is “eligible” to be considered a refugee. Since 1993, Australia’s procedure has 4 main steps:
- A person applies for protection.
- The Department of Immigration (now Home Affairs) makes the first (the ‘primary’) decision on an application.
- This decision is reviewed by an independent tribunal that can look at the facts again.
- The courts can review whether these decisions were lawfully made (judicial review).
Regarding the issue of applying for a refugee status, since 2001, not everyone seeking asylum in Australia can apply for refugee status and laws were passed that said anyone who arrived in an “offshore entry place” could not apply unless the Minister personally decided they could. The law has stayed the same since.
On top of this, Australia’s two leading political parties, the ruling Liberal-National coalition and the Labor opposition, both support tough asylum policies.
They say the journey the asylum seekers and refugees make is dangerous and are controlled by criminal gangs, and they have a responsibility to stop it.
The coalition government made Australia’s asylum policy even tougher when it took power in 2013, introducing Operation Sovereign Borders, which put the military in control of asylum operations.
This makes it even more difficult for refugees or people seeking asylum to obtain any sort of secure place to stay in Australia. These detention centers were said to be created to “control” the population, the amount of people coming into the country, and their financial stability.
The purpose of these detention centers should not be to punish people but rather do health, identity and security checks of the people seeking refuge. Asylum seekers in Australian detention centres are held for an average of more than nine months or 275 days—almost four times longer than the average 72 days asylum seekers are spending in detention centers elsewhere, and far longer than international standards.
Critics have said that the failure of the government to reach out to families following deaths in detention centers shows that there’s a lack of basic human decency on their part.The treatment in these facilities are not a good advertisement of Australia’s loving image.
Protesters say their protest will not end until the government makes the necessary changes to accommodate to the hundreds of refugees’ health and safety concerns. These conditions grew intolerable and the people of Australia are saying enough is enough.
On January 29, 2021, Adam Bandt stood alongside close to 50 men who were recently released from the Park Hotel after close to 8 years in detention. They have joined forces to advocate for the people still inside, fighting, not only for their mental health and neglected medical issues, but for their future. The Australian community standing together and the protest embodies the true definition of humanity and that, as Adam Bandt said, “compassion is cheaper than torture.”
by Jamila Sayer