Refugees - 10/02/2022

10 February 2022


Mehdi Ali is a 24-year-old asylum seeker. He was 15 when he arrived in Australia from Iran seeking sanctuary. He has been held in immigration detention for nine years. He spent time on Nauru and is currently being held in Carlton's Park Hotel. He is unable to leave. He is unable to even open a window to get some fresh air. He has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. He's been approved for resettlement in the United States under Australia's 2016 swap deal with the US, but he is still waiting. There are 30 others like him in the Park Hotel alone. They're being used as an example. They're being tortured by this government as revenge for the medevac legislation. The Australian government is refusing to accept New Zealand's offer to resettle these refugees.

The Prime Minister's Novak Djokovic stunt shone an international spotlight on our nation's shame when he was put in the Park Hotel. The Prime Minister last month claimed that no refugees were being held in detention in the hotel, and then he claimed that he never said that. Mehdi Ali is in there, and 30 other refugees are in there. The Refugee Council of Australia estimates that offshore processing costs more than $1 billion a year. That is a lot of money that could go elsewhere. It is money that would be better spent if those in administrative immigration detention were allowed to live in the community, and there's no reason that that can't happen. There are no safety or national security concerns for these people, and this has even been admitted by Peter Dutton.

I'm proud that our shadow minister, Kristina Keneally, has said that these men should be allowed in the community. I am proud that, in our platform, Labor has pledged to end the outrageous temporary protection visas and safe haven enterprise visas. I'm proud that our party platform is committed to ending the practice of indefinite detention, a practice which is illegal under international law. And I'm proud that Labor has called on the Morrison government to increase the number of refugees taken from Afghanistan and called on him to say what number of people he would bring in.

The Morrison government has abandoned thousands of Afghan interpreters and others who risked their lives to help Australian soldiers. They're now facing Taliban reprisal after coalition forces pulled out of Afghanistan. At the last minute, 4,168 people were evacuated from Kabul, and Labor thanks the brave men and women of the ADF for their heroic efforts. But they and the people of Afghanistan have been let down by this government. The Department of Home Affairs received more than 32,500 applications for the humanitarian program from Afghan nationals on behalf of more than 145,000 individuals. The government then waited months before committing to an actual number of humanitarian places. A Senate report last month found the government's behaviour to be dishonourable. It said:

We asked these people to stand in harm's way with Australian personnel. We have left them standing in harm's way.

Minister Hawke only acted after seeing this scathing report. Reverend Tim Costello has said that their response was 'mean and tricky' and a fig leaf to disguise the government's total failure.

Even those that make it to Australia face new, arbitrary challenges. Protesters outside Parliament House this week drew attention to the approximately 5,000 people from Afghanistan, living in Australia—living in limbo—on cruel temporary protection visas. Some have been living here for over a decade but have no adequate pathway of permanently resettling in Australia. The visas mean they are unable to sponsor their family members stuck in Afghanistan. There is nothing temporary about the situation in Afghanistan, and I call on the government to let these people stay here. Let them have some permanency in their lives. Let us welcome these people to Australia.

The Biloela family is another example of this government's cruelty towards refugees. I'm proud that Labor has stood up for this family from day one and that, under a Labor government, this family would be enjoying their lives in Biloela, where the community wants them, and that so many of my colleagues have called for this.