Amnesty International has called on Australia to urgently reform its policy of mandatory detention for asylum seekers, following a 12-day tour of Australian immigration detention facilities conducted by an international delegation. Amnesty’s refugee spokesperson, Dr Graham Thom, said the despair and isolation witnessed by the delegation was “symptomatic of an untenable system for people waiting for their claims to be processed”.
The delegation saw, first hand, the human cost of mandatory detention. “Some men have been languishing in detention for up to 3 years. We spoke with men who felt like walking ghosts. We saw grown men break down in tears because of the uncertainty. This on top of fearing for the safety of their families left behind…The level of distress we have seen in these centres is a clear indicator that the policy of indefinite mandatory detention does not work,” said Dr Thom.
The Perth Detention Centre was singled out for particular criticism, due to overcrowding and the detention of sick and vulnerable asylum seekers alongside men awaiting removal from Australia for having committed serious crimes.
“The Government needs to stop using indefinite mandatory detention as a deterrent and start treating asylum seekers as real and vulnerable people,” said Dr Thom.