THE St Vincent de Paul Society has called for the release of refugees detained in hotels in Brisbane and Melbourne.
The society’s national president Claire Victory, in a statement coinciding with the seventh anniversary of the start of Australia’s regime of off-shore immigration detention, reiterated the charity’s call for the immediate release of the refugees into safer accommodation.
The statement noted that in July 2013, then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd launched the policy that ensured no people who arrived in Australia by boat would ever gain permanent settlement in Australia but would instead be sent to Papua New Guinea and Nauru.
Vinnies took the anniversary as an opportunity to highlight “the deteriorating situation for the nearly 400 people still in PNG and Nauru, and the hundreds still in closed detention in Australia”.
About 200 refugees transferred to Australia for medical treatment under the repealed medevac legislation are being detained in hotels in Melbourne and Brisbane.
The St Vincent de Paul Society said some of the refugees had been rejected by the United States for resettlement, and the Federal Government had no plan for their safe and permanent resettlement.
Ms Victory said some of the detainees in Brisbane and Melbourne had family members in the community, and others had offers of support and housing with friends.
“A safe and permanent resettlement must be found for all as a matter of urgency, whether they are in detention in Australia or elsewhere,” she said.
“Deteriorating mental health is an issue for many of these men.
“You can’t treat and improve someone’s mental health while they remain in the environment causing that condition.
“Understanding this, the Federal Government has already released most of the people it brought to Australia prior to the medevac legislation, at least into community detention.
“But we understand not one of the 200 evacuated under medevac has been released into community detention.”
Ms Victory said the men were “being punished for the way they got here”.
“Despite repeated calls for urgent action by medical people, the Ombudsman, the Human Rights Commissioner and NGOs (including the St Vincent de Paul Society), the Federal Government has done nothing and given no reason for its lack of action,” she said.
“After seven years, what is the plan for releasing people from closed detention and for their permanent resettlement in a safe country?”
Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge said the refugees in Brisbane and Melbourne who had finished their medical treatment could return to Nauru or to Papua New Guinea, some could go to the United States and those found not to be refugees could return to their home countries.
Meanwhile, executive officer of Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission Peter Arndt joined a candlelight vigil last Sunday outside the Kangaroo Point Central Hotel supporting calls for the freedom of refugees detained there.