In February last year, Andrew Wilkie introduced a Private Members Bill, seconded by Zali Steggall, calling for an end to the immoral, illegal, and extremely expensive practice of indefinite and arbitrary immigration detention.
In presenting the Bill, Wilkie drew attention to the staggering cost of this irrational cruelty.
It costs approximately $346,000 to hold someone in immigration detention in Australia for one year but it costs only about $10,221 for a refugee or an asylum seeker to live in the community. In fact, the budget for our offshore detention is still running at about $1 billion per year. These figures are breathtaking and almost unbelievable.
To highlight this point, I would refer members of this House to the case of the Tamil family who were taken from regional Queensland and the town of Biloela and put into detention, initially in Melbourne. They’ve been in detention more than 1,000 days. They were moved to Christmas Island in August 2019, where the family remains in legal limbo. The cost of detention for the Biloela family is now estimated to have reached $6 million. This is just absurd. You couldn’t make this stuff up. Surely, even if the government doesn’t care about people, at least they care about the budget bottom line and will stop throwing good money after bad with the cost of detention. It must end.
The individual stories of these refugees and asylum seekers are heart-breaking. Families separated, health issues ignored, no job or education, contact with others restricted or denied, ‘privileges’ removed on a whim, and the mental torture of having no path forward and no end in sight.
In seconding the Bill, Zali Steggall spoke of those who remain in offshore detention and in medevac hotels.
Over December and January we saw the release of 65 of the medevac refugees from hotel immigration detention, including two women; however, 120 medevac refugees, including eight women, remain in detention in Australian hotels. There are still around 230 refugees detained on Nauru and in PNG, and they have been there for more than seven years. It’s impossible to fully comprehend that. Think back to where you were more than seven years ago, and think about how you would be coping with the idea that your life has been indefinitely in limbo—that there is no real avenue, that there is no change, that there is no movement—and you are stuck with no opportunity to live a life, to have a hope of being safe or being part of a community.
This bill puts an end to indefinite detention by imposing a maximum term that immigration detainees can be held without a court order, so it’s an important safeguard for people coming to Australia searching for safety for them and their families. The Biloela family were embraced by their community, only to be torn away and thrown into indefinite detention on Christmas Island at huge costs. I call on the government to implement this legislation to end this torturous program and complete waste of money of indefinite detention immediately.
(Updated statistics on people in detention can be found here)
Nothing underlines the deliberate cruelty of this situation more than the government’s refusal to accept New Zealand’s offer to resettle refugees there. They don’t want a resolution. They want to hold these people hostage seemingly forever, ostensibly as a deterrent to others who might think Australia abides by international law, but with the side benefit of political posturing and the ability to hand out lucrative contracts without scrutiny. And we all know how this government enjoys and uses that power.
Wilkie said Australia needs a more effective pathway to dealing with the global humanitarian crisis that is displaced people and reminded Labor that the problem isn’t going away.
I would say to the alternative government: when you go to the next election, if you want to be an alternative government, you need an alternative policy. A good alternative policy would be to end mandatory detention, end offshore processing and end boat towbacks, and start acting with a bit of moral fibre and in accordance with international law.
The Ending Indefinite and Arbitrary Immigration Detention Bill 2021 has been referred to the Joint Standing Committee on Migration inquiry who have invited submissions to be made before 28 January 2022.
If you would like to make a submission, the following gives a brief guide provided by the Australian Refugee Action Network. It need only be a simple letter, or as detailed as you would like:
In your submission you only need to say
- What the current situation is and
- How the Wilkie Bill would address this problem
- What benefits this would have for refugees and Australia’s reputation as a humane and welcoming country
eg In 2022 there are still people who arrived in Australia by boat who have refugee status and who have been in detention for over 8 years. This has had a terrible impact on their physical and mental health. (1.)The Wilkie Bill stipulates that, where possible, people who have refugee status and who are not criminals should be released into the community while they are being processed. (2.)This is a more humane approach than the current policy which involves seemingly “indefinite detention” for people who have escaped persecution in their own country. (3.)
DON’T FORGET TO SIGN YOUR SUBMISSION AND PROVIDE YOUR CONTACT DETAILS.
Submissions can be mailed to:
Committee Secretary, Joint Standing Committee on Migration PO Box 6021 Parliament House Canberra ACT 2600
Or lodged online: https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/OnlineSubmission
Or emailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Alternatively, you can ring or email your state Senators and local MPs and voice your support for Wilkie’s Bill.
This inhumanity must stop.
"Please Mr #Morrison, after 9 years in detention , I just need to experience standing on the earth or grass and look at the open sky. That would really be something to celebrate".
— Muhammad Jamal (@Jamal510254) January 20, 2022
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