The announcement by the then Rudd Government that those arriving by boat after 19 July 2013 would never be settled in Australia was never backed up with a clear plan as to what would happen to the more than 3,000 asylum seekers sent to Papua New Guinea and Nauru for processing.
Eight years later 230 people are still trapped offshore with around another 133 locked up in Alternative Places of Detention around Australia. One of those locked up in an Australian hotel for almost two years is Don Khan, 24. Khan says: “I’m from Myanmar. I’m Rohingya. I left my country in 2013, arriving at Christmas Island in October. I was 17. I was sent to Papua New Guinea detention centre, before coming to Australia because I was very sick in 2019.
“I have been locked up in a hotel in Australia – first at Kangaroo Point in Brisbane, then the Mantra in Melbourne and now the Park Hotel – for almost two years now. This is very hard. For all of us, this is a very hard time. What is our crime? We did not commit any crime. I really worry about what will happen tomorrow – I feel scared. I am human like you, I have family like you. I haven’t seen my family for eight years. Please, give us our rights, give us our freedom.”
Eight years of such suffering could end tomorrow if the Australian Government accepted the offer to take 150 refugees a year, originally made by New Zealand in 2013. That offer is still on the table and with the US resettlement deal, struck in 2016, about to end, this is an obvious solution that would enable refugees to finally find safety.
Dr Graham Thom, Amnesty International Australia’s Refugee Adviser, said: “For eight years we have been working to end this nightmare for all those trapped offshore and locked up onshore. It is astonishing that such cruelty and suffering has gone on for so long. What makes it all the more difficult to comprehend is that if the Australian Government had accepted the New Zealand offer way back in 2013, this could have all been over by now. It’s still not too late. Scott Morrison and Karen Andrews can accept that offer today and get those still suffering to safety.”