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Children out of detention ?? letter to Nambucca Guardian 5 April 2016

Letter to Nambucca Guardian News
Dear Editor,
Making the headlines in recent days has been the news that there are no longer any children being held in detention centres on mainland Australia.  If that were true, it would be great news for all the children and their families who have been held in detention for an inordinate length of time, resulting in enormous damage to their physical and mental wellbeing. Sadly, the story is less than accurate.  The Immigration Department has had to admit that the so-called release is little more than a “bureaucratic sleight of hand”.  The reality is that the government, in the face of overwhelming community opposition to its cruel and inhumane detention policy, has cynically declared, for example, that families with children in “held detention” in Villawood detention centre have been told that their detention has been reclassified as “community detention”. They have been moved nowhere, but somehow we are expected to believe that they have been “released”.  The families remain behind a steel fence. 

All this, of course, is because we have an election looming, and both the Coalition and the Labor opposition want to sweep this difficult political issue under the carpet. We must not allow them to do that. Hundreds of thousands of Australians across the nation have made it clear that they will not support this cruel, inhumane and unlawful policy, which has created so much misery for so many vulnerable people. Locally, our Rural Australians for Refugees group has campaigned tirelessly for the past two years to bring an end to this cruelty, and our supporters have been doggedly persistent in bringing the issues to the attention of our politicians by writing letters, organising petitions and demonstrations and by regular information stalls at our local markets.

Let’s also remember that Minister Dutton continues to insist that all these asylum seekers who have been recently “released into the community” can be sent to Nauru at short notice. His stated intention is to return them.  And let us not forget that there are still many families languishing on Nauru, a tiny impoverished island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, either in the detention centre or “in the community”. Many of them have been there for more than 1,000 days. Those who have been freed to move around the island are not, or course, free.  They have temporary visas, are not permitted to leave the island and cannot be reunited with their families. Let us not pretend that the problem, and our obligations, have conveniently gone away as an election approaches. We need to be vigilant and keep up the pressure for a more humane and compassionate response to these vulnerable people who have a right to our assistance in their time of great need. 


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