Refugee Action Collective (Vic)

Free the refugees! Let them land, let them stay!

Trades Hall backs campaign for refugees trapped in Indonesia

RAC activist Margaret Sinclair reported on the situation for refugees in Indonesia to the executive of the Victorian Trades Hall Council on 23 June.

The executive carried the following motion unanimously.

Victorian Trades Hall and its affiliates note that 14,000 refugees are trapped in Indonesia, most for eight years and many for ten years or more.

Australian governments have contributed to this inhumane situation. In November 2014, Scott Morrison, then Minister for Immigration, announced that Australia would not accept any refugees who applied through the UNHCR for resettlement after 1 July 2014.

Refugees in Indonesia are not allowed to work, study, get a driver’s licence or get married.

Before the 2022 federal election, Labor said it would give “appropriate consideration” to resettlement of those recognised as refugees in Indonesia by the UNHCR.

Its policy also stated: “Subject to Australian vetting processes and sovereignty concerns Labor will positively consider such refugees for inclusion within the increased humanitarian intake.”

One year on from the election, Victorian Trades Hall therefore calls on the Labor federal government to lift the ban on refugees arriving in Australia from Indonesia through the UNHCR program and expedite their transfer.

Victorian Trades Hall encourages all affiliates to invite speakers from refugees who have been in Indonesia, and from the Refugee Action Collective.

We say: stop this detention centre ‘torture’

RAC has called out the systemic “torture” of people held in Australian immigration detention facilities (IDFs) in a submission to a United Nations body.

We have called for an end to mandatory detention, for refugees and asylum-seekers on Nauru and in Papua New Guinea to be brought here, as well as a raft of legal changes and a Senate inquiry. RAC continues to call for all refugees to be given permanent protection.

The submission was made to the UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture, outlining how the Australian government has been, and still is, breaching the UN Convention Against Torture (CAT) and its optional protocol (OPCAT).

OPCAT inspectors visited Australian IDFs and prisons in October but left the country in protest after being denied entry by NSW and Queensland.

The CAT definition of “torture” includes “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” of detainees. Our submission points to examples such as:

  • 15 reported sexual assaults on children between 2012 and 2015 at the Nauru IDF
  • the failure to stock a tropical infections antibiotic at the IDF on PNG’s Manus Island (closed in 2017) and the failure to ensure quick emergency medical airlifts to Australia, resulting in detainee Hamid Khazaei’s arrival, brain dead, at a Brisbane hospital in 2014
  • 8000 forced transfers of onshore detainees by air (usually in handcuffs) from one IDF to another during 2017–19, an average for detainees of one such transfer every two months
  • repeated refusals – by the Home Affairs department’s Australian Border Force unit (ABF) – of doctor-requested transfers of offshore detainees to Australia
  • in 2019, even after the Migration Act’s “Medevac” amendments ordered such transfers, Home Affairs/ABF locked up transferees in IDFs, and continued to prevent most of them from receiving doctor-recommended specialist health care.

RAC has sent a copy of its submission to the Commonwealth Ombudsman, whose inspectors monitor CAT compliance between UN inspector visits.

To help end government breaches of human rights obligations, RAC’s recommendations include:

  • enacting a Human Rights Charter
  • defining “human rights” in the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 and the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011 to include all applicable human rights instruments, including the Refugee Convention
  • inserting – in the Object provision of the Migration Act and related Acts – wording such as “to give effect to Australia’s international obligations”, then, in Schedules to each Act, reproducing each relevant international instrument.

Read the RAC submission in full.

Read RAC’s letter regarding the submission sent to Ministers.