• 04 AUG 20
    • 0
    Christmas Island is a dangerous and inhumane response to rising COVID-19 risk in immigration detention

    Christmas Island is a dangerous and inhumane response to rising COVID-19 risk in immigration detention

    Reports that the Federal Government will reopen the Christmas Island Detention Centre highlight the failure of the Minister for Home Affairs to appropriately respond to the threat posed by COVID-19 in immigration detention.

    Today it was revealed that preparations are underway to staff the centre on the remote island, which is located 2,700km from Perth. The detention facilities have not been used, apart from detaining one family, since February.

    Since the start of the pandemic, medical experts across Australia – including the Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases and the Australasian College for Infection Prevention and Control – have repeatedly called on the Federal Government to release people held in detention to protect against a widespread outbreak. Other countries such as the United Kingdom and Canada have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by reducing numbers of people held in immigration detention.

    David Burke, Legal Director with the Human Rights Law Centre:

    “Everyone deserves to be safe and treated humanely in the middle of this public health crisis. There is an easy and safe solution to the threat posed by COVID-19 – Minister Dutton could today release the women and men held unnecessarily in immigration detention centres into housing in the community where they can socially distance.

    “The Government clearly knows people are at risk in their crowded immigration detention centres – it beggars belief that they are going to such extraordinary lengths to avoid a humane and logical solution. By reopening detention facilities on a remote island, thousands of kilometres from specialist medical care, Minister Dutton has chosen a dangerous and cruel response to a public health crisis.

    “The Morrison Government needs to put politics aside, listen to the medical experts and protect the people currently held in detention, the staff working there, and the community.”

    Jana Favero, Director of Advocacy and Campaigns at the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre:

    “The Asylum Seeker Resource centre is highly concerned for our clients held by the Morrison Government in detention centres during hard lock down and rising case numbers.

    “Many are experiencing rapidly deteriorating mental and physical health and need to be released into the community where they can protect themselves and go into lock down like the rest of Victoria.

    “Instead of following the advice of medical professionals, the Government is resorting to removing people offshore to Christmas Island, intentionally out of sight and far away from their caseworkers, legal representation and community support networks, risking mental health even further.

    “Minister Dutton is exporting his duty of care and responsibility for the health of people he has indefinitely detained for over 7 years for political gain instead of viable, cost effective and humanitarian solutions.”

    ENDS

    Media contact: Marcella Brassett 0411 026 142

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