Magazine of Socialist Action in Australia

Labor set to expand refugee detention

Reading Time: 3 minutes

In October the Gillard government announced that it would balance its “tough stance” on asylum seekers with a more humane approach to children in detention. Labor has said that by June next year it will release up to 738 children from detention. However at the same time they have announced the opening of more detention centres.

Disappointingly there has been no commitment to release all children from detention. Furthermore an undefined majority will be transferred to “community detention”. What this will mean is that children and families released will be subject to parole like criminal conditions. Curfews on refugees have not been ruled out and those released will most likely have to report to authorities on a regular basis.

By Corey Snoek, Socialist Party

On top of this most of the refugees released will be subject to “residence determinations” instead of bridging visas. This means they will not be allowed to seek employment but instead will only be entitled to the lowest form of welfare entitlements.

In reality these changes are a mere cover for the expansion of mainland detention centres and the continuation of the policy of mandatory detention. Former defence sites in South Australia and Western Australia will be transformed to lock up almost 2000 asylum seekers. Darwin’s airport lodge will be expanded along with Melbourne’s Immigration Transit Centre at Broadmeadows.

The government is also continuing talks with East Timor over the possibility of building another offshore detention centre in the small island nation. This follows the policy of brutal offshore processing that has been the tradition of both Labor and Liberal federal governments.

Offshore processing makes it easier for the government to reject legitimate claims and also keeps the detention centres out of public view and scrutiny. On Christmas Island refugees are currently being housed in tents. The facility, which was built to house 800 people, now has almost 2700 detainees crammed in like sardines.

Detention centres cause untold amounts of mental trauma. Recorded cases of self harm in detention centres have quadrupled this past year. More shocking however is the fact that these trends are spreading to children.

The reasons for these increases are the appalling conditions refugees face. For the families and children released into “community detention” it is unlikely that many of these conditions will change. These people will still face lengthy processing, uncertainty and anxiety over the possibility of deportation back to the country they were fleeing.

Refugees have the capacity to add invaluable skills and talents in whichever country they find asylum. It has been shown that up to 70% of asylum seekers have skills that are needed in Australia.

Rather than take advantage of this fact the major parties prefer to pretend that refugees are the cause of every problem we face. They claim that if they are let into Australia it will mean less for to go around for the rest of us.

The reality is that the reason for the lack of jobs, homes and services is the capitalist system itself. There is more than enough wealth to go around. The problem is the way it is distributed. Further to this refugees are products of the conflicts and poverty inherent in the profit driven system.

The Socialist Party stands opposed to the policy of mandatory detention. Ordinary people who are escaping conflict and oppression should not be locked up like criminals. We campaign for decent jobs, homes and services for all and for a socialist society that puts people’s needs before profits. This is the only way to ensure people are not forced to flee war and persecution.


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