24 March 2005


The recent announcement that some long term detainees may be released into the Australian community – although with conditions attached – has been welcomed as a small, positive step by church leaders and other advocates for refugees, despite falling well short of expectations and of the basic demands of compassion, humanity and justice.

More importantly however, perhaps it represents the beginning of the rolling back of the stone that has sealed off the evil stench emanating from the rottenness of Australia’s policy toward those who have sought asylum in this country.

The policy changes allow some long serving detainees who are stateless or have no country willing to accept them, to be released on the condition that they agree to end any legal action against the government's decisions and leave the country whenever the Australian government decides it is practical for them to do so. Thus although these people will live in the community with an access to a range of essential services they are condemned to live in continued uncertainty, with the constant fear of deportation. They will also have no family reunion rights nor the right to re-enter Australia if they leave, so will have to give up any hope of protection in Australia if they want to see their family members.

The proposed changes do nothing for the more than fifty men, women and children seemingly forgotten but still held on Nauru.

Nevertheless this small sign of a renewed hope of the resurrection of fairness and decency in Australian society this Easter might encourage more Australians to write to their parliamentary representatives urging further reforms. Failure to do so may lead our politicians to think that they have defused a potentially politically damaging issue by this minimal response. Contact details for all parliamentarians can be found at Parliament of Australia website.

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