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Letter re refugees held in hotels during Corvid-19 pandemic

Dear Minister Tudge,

These are difficult times for the Australian people, and the government deserves credit for the actions that it has taken to date – notwithstanding the Ruby Princess debacle – to get the COVID-19 pandemic under control.

There remain, however, a number of vulnerable groups who are at
serious risk of contracting the virus and spreading it in the community. I am particularly concerned about the plight of asylum seekers, many of whom are living in crowded detention centres and APODs  where social distancing is well-nigh impossible. The Mantra hotel in Melbourne is a case in point, and was discussed recently in a RN interview with Dr David Isaacs. He explained that these places are inherently unsafe and that the inmates face the real danger of contracting COVID-19. Many of the men in the Mantra hotel have been held there for up to nine months, awaiting, but largely not receiving, the medical care for which they had been evacuated from PNG. This is plainly unacceptable. Dr. Isaacs described the situation as “unforgivable”, and I agree with him.

Could you please explain why the government will not release these people into community detention, where many of them have family, friends and other community members who can help to support them?

Could you please explain why the government chooses to spend up to $350,000 per annum keeping a single person in detention, when they could spend their time in community detention at a fraction of the cost? This is surely a serious and negligent waste of taxpayers’ money. Money which could be used elsewhere to support our communities in these uncertain times.

I urge you to take the necessary and urgent steps to release all asylum seekers currently awaiting medical attention or the determination of their claims for protection into community detention.

Yours sincerely,
Valla Beach, NSW

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