21 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.

As we indicated last week, we were grateful to receive a reply from the Minister for Home Affairs to our many letters. The benign picture which that response paints of Australia’s treatment of refugees on- and off-shore is very much at odds with a report prepared by a coalition of NGOs for the upcoming review of Australia’s human rights record by the UN Human Rights Council. https://static1.squarespace.com/static/580025f66b8f5b2dabbe4291/t/5f9b47b76ee6345364e0b111/1604011960979/UPR+Coalition+Factsheet+-+Refugees%2C+Asylum+Seekers+and+Statelessness.pdf
That report paints a picture of cruel and worsening treatment of refugees and asylum seekers, including the following information about which we have questions:
1. The average length of time that individuals spend in detention has increased since March 2015 from 394 to 551 days, with some people spending more than 10 years in detention. Will your government consider introducing a reasonable maximum limit on the time that any individual can be held in immigration detention?
2. In recent years the conditions of immigration detention have become more prison-like, with – for example – body searches, use of force, and mechanical restraint when people are transferred out for appointments. Will your government acknowledge that holding people who have committed no crime in prison-like conditions is likely to further traumatise already vulnerable people?
3. As of mid 2020 there were about 360 people still on Nauru or in PNG under Operation Sovereign borders. Will your government consider accepting the New Zealand offer of resettling some of these, and allow the remainder to settle in Australia?
4. Almost 5000 people who arrived in Australia by boat in 2012/2013 are yet to have their refugee claims determined. Is this a deliberate policy to demoralise these people into seeking to return to the countries they fled? When will their claims be finalised?
We look forward to receiving your answers to these questions; and we look forward to a time when we do not need to be ashamed in international fora of our country’s treatment of people who came here seeking a safe home.
Yours faithfully,

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