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Independent Member for Clark, Andrew Wilkie, will today introduce a Private Members Bill to end the unlawful mandatory detention of asylum seekers, refugees and non-citizens. The Ending Indefinite and Arbitrary Immigration Detention Bill would also have the effect of abolishing the inhumane practice of offshore detention, which costs Australia more than $1 billion a year.

“This Bill provides alternatives to immigration detention by moving asylum seekers, refugees and other non-citizens into the community almost always in preference to being behind bars,” Mr Wilkie said. “It will also ensure that those in community alternatives to immigration detention have full access to housing and financial support, as well as the right to work. They will have access to education, health care and other government services, as is required under international law.

“Importantly, the Bill also outlines specific conditions on how and why a person can be detained. This will rule out long-term and arbitrary detention by setting limited time frames to ensure that an individual’s detention period is as short as possible.

“It costs about $346,000 per year to hold someone in immigration detention in Australia, compared to $10,221 for a refugee or asylum seeker to live in the community. As at December 2020, there were about 1,500 people being held in Australian detention facilities and another 282 effectively in detention in PNG and Nauru. Why do we persist in keeping these people, many of whom have already suffered great trauma, in abhorrent and torturous conditions when they should be allowed to walk free?

“Priya and Nades Murugappan and their daughters, Kopika and Tharnicaa, for example, were taken from the regional Queensland town of Biloela into detention in Melbourne more than 1,000 days ago. The family was moved to Christmas Island in August 2019, where it remains in legal limbo. The cost of keeping this family in detention is estimated at about $6 million.

“The bottom line is that Australia’s bipartisan policy of mandatory detention is immoral and illegal under numerous international agreements. It should have been abolished years ago and this Bill promises to do so now.”