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Sunday, 19 December 2010

In Australia, call for Christmas Island disaster survivors to be freed from detention

Source: Refugee Action Coalition Sydney

Refugee groups have called for the survivors of the Christmas Island tragedy to be freed from detention to live in the community while their refugee claims are being processed.

“The survivors of the Christmas Island tragedy have suffered a terrible trauma and there will be more grief suffered in the days and weeks to come. They have suffered enough.

“A genuine humanitarian response from the government would see them freed from detention while their claims are processed. The Minister has the power to issues bridging visas to allow them to live in the community. He should do that as a matter of urgency. It would be a small step, but one that could make all the difference to the survivors,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“There are no adequate services for counselling and other assistance that these asylum seekers need on Christmas Island on an on-going basis. The needs of the asylum seekers already on Christmas Island are not being met. Christmas Island is no place for the survivors or any other asylum seekers.

“To inflict mandatory detention onto those that have survived the horror of the tragedy at Christmas Island would be a national disgrace. At the present rate of processing, the asylum seekers from that boat will still be in detention in twelve or eighteen months’ time. To treat the survivors in that way would be unconscionable.

“Mandatory detention itself takes a terrible toll of people’s mental health. Asylum seekers have committed no crime but in too many cases mandatory detention imposes a life sentence on them.

“Freeing the survivors could be a first step to undertaking a thorough review of the government’s policies. If the government truly wants to avoid more tragedies, we need more than political posturing. Instead of a committee of politicians, the government should be calling a roundtable of refugee advocates to implement a truly humanitarian policy, that would end mandatory detention and off-shore processing,” said Rintoul.
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