Australia

Dozens of asylum seekers released from detention in Brisbane, with more to follow, advocates say

Dozens of asylum seekers detained in a Brisbane motel for over a year are being released into the community on bridging visas, refugee advocates say. 

The Refugee Action Coalition said on Monday morning it understood 25 people who had been kept at the Kangaroo Point Hotel were being granted bridging visas, along with two detained at Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation. 

In January, dozens of asylum seekers brought to Australia under the now-repealed medevac law were suddenly released from detention in Melbourne. Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said at the time it was more cost-effective for them to live in the community than in detention centres.

One of those released from detention in Melbourne, Thanush Selvarasa, posted a photo to Twitter on Monday morning saying dozens of people had been transferred from the Kangaroo Point Hotel to BITA.

Refugee Voices, an asylum seeker-led advocacy group, said it had also received information 25 people were being released on Monday in Brisbane and that more detainees in Sydney and Darwin would be granted bridging visas in the coming days. 

“We have been in direct contact with some of them this morning and they have been picking up their property and getting their bridging visas,” founder Ahmad Hakim told SBS News on Monday morning.

Mr Hakim said he was happy but that more work lay ahead to help get all medevac immigration detainees released.

Muslim detainees at the Kangaroo Point facility filed a complaint last year with the Australian Human Rights Commission saying they had not been given certified halal food for more than 12 months

RAC spokesperson Ian Rintoul said after the 25 medevac detainees in Brisbane are released there will still be more than 70 others in detention centres across Australia.

“The government’s lack of transparency and chaotic release of medevac refugees is causing increased anxiety and stress among those left behind,” he said.

“Eight years of detention and human rights abuse is too long. They should all be released immediately.”

Jana Favero, the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre’s director of advocacy and campaigns, also said “the arbitrary, delayed nature of releases” and absence of much government information has caused severe mental health harm to asylum seekers still detained.

“People need freedom to recover their health and a permanent home so they can have a future, not six-month visas and more years of stress and failing health,” she said.

A spokesperson from the Department of Home Affairs did not confirm how many people were being released, but said final departure bridging E visas had been granted with work rights and access to Medicare.

They also reiterated the government’s long-standing position that people under regional processing arrangements would not settle permanently in Australia.

“The Australian government remains committed to regional processing and third-country resettlement for persons under these arrangements,” they said.

“Transitory persons have third country migration options and are encouraged to finalise their medical treatment so they can continue on their resettlement pathway to the United States, return to Nauru or PNG, or return to their home country.”

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