Bishop Vincent Long has called for an end to the “deplorable” situation facing refugees and asylum seekers in the heart of Brisbane.
Bishop Long, the Bishop of Parramatta who chairs the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Commission for Social Justice, was responding to reports that the health and wellbeing of men detained at a Kangaroo Point hotel continues to deteriorate.
Brisbane refugee advocate Rebecca Lim, who is in constant contact with the men, said “the situation for the people in Kangaroo Point is really, really dire and we just don’t know what to do anymore”.
“They’re all thin, they’re all depressed, extremely stressed,” she said.
The men were transferred from Papua New Guinea for medical treatment under the Federal Government’s former Medevac legislation, and some have been detained at Kangaroo Point for up to 18 months.
Others were transferred from Papua New Guinea to Melbourne.
Some of the men in Brisbane have been transferred to the Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation (BITAR) at Pinkenba but about 110 remain at Kangaroo Point.
Bishop Long said reports about the wellbeing of the refugees and asylum seekers were “extremely concerning”.
“They are now living in more restricted conditions than existed on Nauru,” he said.
“Because of the coronavirus lockdown, all in-person visits have been banned.
“As a result, they are extremely distressed and one of them (was recently) under suicide watch after attempting self-harm.
“I call on the (Federal) Government to reconsider the ban on in-person visits and to prioritise the mental health and well-being of (refugees and) asylum seekers in detention.
“Furthermore, it is time that the Government and political leaders acted in accordance with our honourable tradition and put an end to this deplorable situation of protracted and indefinite detention.
“It is time to find an alternative and conscionable solution.”
Ms Lim said she was “very, very concerned” for the men.
“Of all the groups – and everyone’s in a bad state – but the people in Kangaroo Point and BITAR are really the worst of the lot, because they’re not in the community, they’re not on bridging visas, they’re not stranded off-shore where there’s some measure of freedom,” she said.
“It’s gone on for too long; it’s not necessary now.
“The people who were so resilient and were okay, are now saying, ‘Even if I come out, how am I going to manage? Am I going to be well enough? I’ve just been so sick now, how long will it take me to recover?’
“Two years ago they wouldn’t have said that. They would’ve said, ‘Yes, okay, I’m out, I’m free, I can get a job, we’ll be settled now …’
“They’re not even talking about that now.
“It’s like, ‘So, if they release me then it’ll take me years to recover now …’”
“I don’t know what to do.”
By Peter Budgen. Reproduced with permission from The Catholic Leader, the news publication of the Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.