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RAR Supports The Release Of Long-Term Detainees

MEDIA RELEASE March 21, 2005

Rural Australians For Refugees Supports The Release Of Long-Term Detainees

A national conference for the group Rural Australians for Refugees this weekend coincided with the announcement that long-term detainees in immigration detention may be allowed to live in the community while their visa applications are being processed.

Long-term detainees in immigration detention include many people who have professional work skills and people who would be very happy to work and live in rural and regional Australia. Rural Australians for Refugees supports -
· the release of asylum seekers in detention on the mainland and on Nauru and Christmas Island
· faster and more just processing of all future asylum claims
· the granting of permanent protection rather than temporary protection and bridging visas.

Rural Australians for Refugees welcomes the announcement and urges all Cabinet members to support this change. We would like long-term detainees to be allowed to live in the community with full rights to work and to social services such as Medicare, education and financial support. We believe that not only are they being severely harmed by long-term detention, but also that they will make a positive contribution to Australia. The recent experience with Afghani TPV holders in Young, NSW, shows that they contributed in excess of $2 million to the local economy in an eighteen month period.

The Conference was told that the numbers of people seeking asylum in industrialized countries has fallen considerably. The current policies of locking up asylum seekers under harsh conditions can not even be justified as a way of ‘stopping the boats’.

A recent report into the costs of the current policy by A Just Australia gives a saving of $120 million per year to Australia for ending mandatory detention and ending the so-called Pacific solution. Not only do the current policies cause physical and psychological damage, they are economically unviable.

The national RAR Conference was attended by a number of refugees now living and working in rural and regional Australia who spoke very positively of their experiences. Members of local RAR groups who had helped the men with needs such as accommodation also spoke about the bonds of friendship that the men had made within their new communities, and how they had been made welcome. Rural and regional areas in Australia historically have found it difficult to attract people for work, and refugees are now contributing to the rural and regional economies and social life.

‘ I was so moved to hear one young man from the Hazara minority, which is persecuted in Afghanistan, speak about the peace and sense of belonging that he has found since beginning work in the Southern Highlands area of NSW. His Australian friends there clearly feel that he is contributing a lot to his workplace and to the community.’ said Mira Wroblewski from Rural Australians for Refugees.

‘ Ian Skiller from Tooleybuc, in country NSW, was featured on ABCs ‘Australian Story’ in 2004. Ian also spoke warmly about how the refugees now working and living in his area have been accepted as part of his community and his family. I am now hoping to attract refugees to work and live in my local area.

We would welcome anybody who is released from detention after this announcement’ said Ms Wroblewski


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