Australia: Refugees released from cruel and arbitrary detention

Amnesty International Australia today welcomed the further release of refugees from the Park Hotel, Alternative Place of Detention (APOD), in Melbourne, but said the release showed the policy was arbitrary and cruel. Amnesty redoubled its call for the release of a further 14 people who remain in detention and all those arbitrarily detained.

Among those released is Mostafa “Moz” Azimitabar, a courageous voice of the #GameOver campaign, who was Medevac’d to Australia at the end of 2019 for urgent medical care and has been in detention ever since.

“This is the most beautiful moment of my life… after 2,737 days locked up in detention – I am free.

“Thank you to all of the amazing people who helped me to stay strong.

“If I am able to obtain my freedom, there should be the opportunity for the others seeking asylum to have their freedom as well. Until all of us are free, none of us are truly free.”

Amnesty International Australia Refugee Rights Advisor, Dr Graham Thom, said: “The fact that some of these people have been released today and not seven years ago demonstrates the totally arbitrary and cruel nature of locking innocent people up. The timing is curious, to say the least.

“There are still around 150 refugees and people seeking asylum from Australia’s offshore detention regime detained in APODs and detention centres around Australia, with around 264 still offshore. For them, we must keep up the fight.

“We’re also concerned about what happens to these people when they’re released – they receive no support, and in many cases have complex medical conditions for which they still need treatment.”

“Australia is ultimately responsible for these people, people who were fleeing from some of the most dangerous places on earth. During their detention at the hands of our government their physical and mental health has been seriously damaged. Australia is obliged to help them repair the damage done over the past seven years.

“This is a win for everyone who has worked for the release of these people, all the people who’ve signed petitions, sent messages of support and protested on the street to draw attention to the plight of the innocent people locked up for no reason,” Dr Thom said.

Amnesty International launched the Game Over campaign in 2019 following a visit to PNG to visit Australia’s refugees with human rights advocate Craig Foster. More than 70,000 Australians and hundreds of community organizations have taken direct action to ensure all those detained by Australia’s cruel immigration policies are freed.

The latest releases come as the international community criticised Australia’s offshore processing and mandatory detention regime as the United Nation conducted the third Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Australia’s human rights record.

Among the countries calling for an end to offshore processing and mandatory detention were Germany, Ireland and Finland.

A final report of recommendations for Australia to improve its commitment to human rights will be delivered by the UN on February 5.