14 November 2020

Dear Mr Morrison,

I am a friend of the Centre for a Compassionate Society, which is based in the electorate of Melbourne. I live in the electorate of ***. I will be adding my voice to the voices of many others who value compassion, by writing a letter to your government every week until all refugees and asylum-seekers who have been detained on Nauru and in PNG under Operation Sovereign Borders are appropriately re-settled.

We also seek humane treatment for refugees and asylum seekers on-shore. We are copying this letter to the Ministers and Shadow Minister for Home Affairs and Immigration, and to our local members of parliament.

We were grateful to receive a response this week from the Home Affairs Department, the summary of which is that your government’s Operation Sovereign Borders has stemmed the flow of illegal maritime ventures and therefore prevented deaths at sea, that regional processing is a system which treats people with ‘respect and dignity’ and under which people have freedom of movement and adequate support services, and that all people under these arrangement including those temporarily in Australia have permanent resettlement options which you encourage them to pursue.
Prime Minister, while we applaud your stated goal and achievements of preventing deaths at sea, we remain very concerned about the human cost of these policies. Your portrayal of the conditions under which refugees and asylum seekers live in PNG and Nauru is contradicted by the experience of so many whose physical and mental health has been damaged in these places, and for whom the Medevac Bill was necessary in order to access appropriate care. We were very distressed this week to read a ‘letter from detention’ from a suicidal stateless Kurdish asylum seeker who has been in detention now for 11 years, indicating that these conditions continue for him and for many others. https://www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au/opinion/topic/2020/11/14/letter-detention-help-before-my-soul-gone/160527240010712. He describes his situation this way: “I am in very bad situation which is unexplainable, like a bird in the cage. When you open the cage after a long time, the poor bird cannot fly anymore. It has lost its wings and its heart for flying. I came by boat to save my life. If this is my crime, so you have imprisoned me for 11 years for this crime”. Equally troubling to us is that many of the people damaged by detention, and brought to Australian under the Medevac legislation, now reside in even more restrictive conditions in so-called Alternative Places of Detention on-shore, such as the Mantra Hotel in Preston. Together these facts render rather hollow your statement that “the length and conditions of immigration detention are subject to regular internal and external review”.
Your letter raises many questions for us, to which we respectfully request a prompt reply.
1. If by your own estimation only 822 have been resettled in the US, how many remain on Nauru, in PNG and in APODs, and what are your plans for them? What is the foreseeable future of the US deal? In order to end this impasse will you accept the NZ offer of resettling 150 people per annum?
2. Will you consider granting freedom of movement to those refugees and asylum seekers currently held in such restrictive conditions in APODs, until permanent resettlement options can be found?
Yours faithfully

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