On Monday 1 March, the Federal Government released 22 people from Kangaroo Point Hotel and three people from Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation (BITA) into the community.

A total of 115 refugees have been released from Melbourne and Brisbane detention centres since 20 January.

The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) said in a statement that while they welcome the releases, they have been arbitrary, with people who are in an identical legal situation to those being released, being left behind in detention centres across Australia.

The ASRC said that people are being released on six month bridging visas with work rights.

“People who were released from the Park Hotel and MITA received up to six weeks of Status Resolution Support Services (SRSS) including motel accommodation and income support payments which are due to run out in March.”

“It is uncertain what support people now being released will receive. People on bridging visas are excluded from Government safety nets of Job Keeper and Job Seeker.”

The ASRC said the releases have occurred without notice to service organisations.

The Kangaroo Point facility is located within the electorates of local representatives across the three levels of government. Federal Member for Griffith, Terri Butler, South Brisbane State MP, Amy MacMahon and Councillor for the Gabba, Jonathan Sri have each welcomed the releases.

“I welcome the news that some of the refugees transferred to Australia for medical treatment have finally been released from hotel detention,” Ms Butler said.

“I have continuously called for the release of refugees who have been indefinitely detained by the Morrison Government, where it is safe for that to occur. My Labor colleagues have done the same.”

Ms Butler said she has written to the Minister on numerous occasions and has met with the Minister personally to lobby him for the release of people from the Kangaroo Point facility.

“If, as Peter Dutton said only a few weeks ago, it was cheaper for the government to release these refugees into the community than keep them in a hotel, why did the Morrison Government insist on keeping them in these inhumane conditions for over a year in the first place?” she asked.

Ms Butler said there are still a number of refugees remaining in hotel detention and considerable community concern about how the Morrison Government is treating these families.

“We can show compassion and support for those families and children that are in our care and maintain our immigration system’s integrity.  The detention of these refugees is just cruelty for cruelty’s sake,” Ms Butler said.

Amy MacMahon, who has been a regular at protests in Kangaroo Point said, “We’re elated that these men have been released, but on “final departure” bridging visas, they are essentially being released into poverty – these men have unmet health needs, and insecure or no housing at all.”

 “The federal government has said that releasing people from these improvised detention centres like Kangaroo Point Motel is a cost-saving measure – without support, it’ll be up to volunteers and community organisations to provide supports that the government really should be offering.”

Ms MacMahon called on the State Government to provide housing and emergency relief services for the men.

 “Queensland is a wealthy state – we’re calling on the state government to come to the table with housing and emergency relief services for these 25 men.”

Ms MacMahon said she will be writing to the Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Leanne Linard about the need for support.

State Minister, Leanne Linard and Federal Member, Terri Butler told the Westender that the responsibility for supporting these men in the community sits with the Federal Government and Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Peter Dutton.

Ms Linard did not confirm with The Westender whether she has heard from Ms MacMahon, but said.

 “We condemn in the strongest possible terms the actions of the Morrison Government in releasing 25 refugees and asylum seekers into the community with very little support, and I understand more are being released today.”

“The Commonwealth Department of Home Affairs has full responsibility for refugees and asylum seekers and the Federal Minister Peter Dutton has washed his hands of this issue.”

“Releasing these people, the majority of whom have been identified as legitimate refugees, into the community with the current lack of support verges on cruelty.”

“Furthermore, it flies in the face of the Commonwealth’s responsibility as a signatory of the United Nations 1951 Refugee Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol.”

Ms Linard said the State has stepped up. She said that since 2018, the Palaszczuk Government has committed more than $4.6 million through the Asylum Seeker and Refugee Support Program (ASRA) to ensure people in this situation have the basic necessities of food, housing and essential medication.

“We will continue to work with the appropriate agencies and charities to ensure this vulnerable sector of our community receives the support needed.”

“At the end of the day, this is Mr Dutton’s portfolio, and I will be writing to him to stress that he cannot walk away from his responsibility.”

Federal MP Terri Butler also said the Morrison Government has a responsibility to ensure that people in these circumstances are not abandoned in the community without appropriate living arrangements and support services.

“Leaving people to languish in desperate circumstances is the Morrison Government’s specialty, just like they do with residents in Aged Care and many other vulnerable members of the community,” Ms Butler said.

Councillor for the Gabba Ward, Jonathan Sri has put out a call for the community to add their support for the released men.

“This is a massive win and vindication for everyone who has been applying pressure on the government through a wide range of channels, but after inflicting so much trauma on these people, it’s paramount that we actually support them to settle here rather than cutting them loose.”

“I’m going to continue protesting until every one of the men in detention is free, but I also encourage people to donate to the Romero Centre and think about whether you might be able to offer accommodation to someone if the state and federal governments refuse to help house them.”


Feature image shutterstock by Alex Bee