Australian immigration authorities have ordered detention centres to be closed indefinitely amid widespread complaints of forced detention and abuse.
The Immigration Department said it would restrict the flow of refugees and asylum seekers from Indonesia, Cambodia and Thailand to the country’s offshore detention centres, with detention facilities to be moved to a new port.
It is the most cruel and inhumane thing in this country, said immigration lawyer and former detainee David White, who wrote a letter to the government on behalf of detainees.
I just wanted to let you know that I am so sad that I can no longer visit family in the detention centres.
It’s a real tragedy, because these are the families I’m trying to care for, and they are suffering.
The Department of Immigration and Border Protection said it was working with the Department of Human Services (DHS) and Immigration New South Wales (INW) to make the decision.
“The decision was made to close detention centres at the request of the Government, but the decision will be subject to further review,” the statement said.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) said Australia has about 11,000 asylum seekers and refugees living in detention.
It said about 10 per cent of detainees in offshore detention were children.
“Australia is home to the largest number of children in the United Nations refugee system,” it said.
“It’s estimated that around one-third of children currently held in detention in Australia are in need of care.”
It also said there were “serious concerns” about the health and safety of detainees, and it had “regularly raised concerns about the welfare and safety” of children.
The ABS said the closure of offshore detention was expected to be phased in over the coming months.
But it said that the new policy would not impact on people being placed in other centres or facilities in the country.
“Under current arrangements, people in offshore facilities in Papua New Guinea and Nauru will be able to continue to be in those centres and will not be required to leave their centres,” the ABS said.
But the department said that it was also working with local governments to ensure people who had been detained in offshore centres were not able to access care and services.
“While the closure in the Nauruan offshore detention centre is not a mandatory closure, the Government is committed to ensuring that people who have been in offshore locations do not receive care, services or access to the community services provided to them in Naurua,” it added.
“Further changes to the arrangements for offshore detention will be made once the Government’s final decision is available.”