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Amnesty report back on Refugee Detention

SEE BELOW AMNESTY LIVE Q &A on Detention
plus ASRC Facts on Bridging Visas
http://www.championsofchange.org.au/?p=827

Have you seen our explosive new report on Australia’s detention centres in ABC News, News.com.au and Sky News?
Tell Minister Bowen to immediately release asylum seekers most at risk before more men, women and children are broken by this policy: http://ow.ly/9evbA

Dear Fabia,

I’m back from my research trip behind the fences of Australia’s detention centres. In the last few weeks I’ve spoken with hundreds of asylum seekers. I didn’t see comfort and privilege – I saw scars and despair.

People who’ve been in detention for over 12 months spoke of losing hope, self-harm and suicide as a fact of life. Many said they need pills just to get through each day. In some centres the use of sleeping pills and other medication is endemic. The conclusion is impossible to deny: long-term detention is crushing people.

With our new report making headlines across the country today [1], Minister Bowen cannot ignore that long-term, indefinite detention is a policy of trauma, misery and suicide. Demand he move the most vulnerable asylum seekers into the community immediately, before more men, women and children are broken by this policy.

There is a solution. Community processing is a cheaper, fairer, and more humane alternative. I’ve been able to speak with asylum seekers in the community, and the difference is incredible. These people have hope for the future. They want little more than a chance to find a job, care for their families and begin their lives anew.

I spoke with one man who had been released three weeks ago. He’s been training to become a lifeguard at a local swimming pool. Unlike those trapped behind bars, he doesn’t have to ask a guard to unlock a steel door whenever he wants to use a computer, visit a friend, or call his family.

We’re making progress, but people are simply not being released fast enough. We need to move the most at risk asylum seekers – long-term detainees, families, and unaccompanied minors – into the community now.

Even now, I can’t escape the memory of a Sri Lankan man I met. His eyes were dull, black pools of despair. He talked calmly of suicide, and explained that he has stopped calling his mother because the sadness in his voice caused her too much distress. He had been locked up for two long years.

Is this any way to treat the survivors of war, torture and trauma? I know we can do better in this country.

Alex Pagliaro
Refugee Campaign Coordinator
Amnesty International Australia

PS: Do you have any questions about my trip, the effects of indefinite detention, or community processing? We’re holding a live Q&A on Facebook tomorrow at midday EDT. Be sure to RSVP. Can’t make it? We’ll post a selection of questions on our website next week.

[1] Amnesty report slams remote detention centres, ABC News, 23 February 2012.

Change detention system – Amnesty, Sky News, 23 February 2012.

Amnesty says pull your centres in, Australia, News.com.au, 23 February 2012.

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