from @GetUp “Did you see last night’s 4 Corners?” #australia #refugees

Did you see Four Corners last night? The shocking footage they showed of refugees languishing in detention centres was a disgrace:

Dear tony,

We’ve all known for a long time now that our immigration detention centres would be better labelled "mental illness factories," but last night’s episode of Four Corners brought the faces and names of this tragedy into living rooms around Australia for the first time in almost a decade. That’s because government officials usually block media access to the harsh conditions inside detention centres.

But here’s something you may not know: in the last three years, self harm incidents have jumped by 2600% to over 1,132.1Can you sign this urgent petition to end the process of leaving refugees languishing in immigration detention centres?

Last night’s Four Corners episode highlighted the absurdity and cruelty of a system that locks people away for legally seeking asylum. Many are refugees who have stood up to the Taliban in Afghanistan only to find themselves punished in Australia for having committed no crime; locked away for more than a year inside dark and hopeless places where self-harm, suicide attempts, heavy psychiatric medication and wanton despair have become the new normal.

What’s worse – when a decision on their application is finally made, our officials often get it wrong. Almost 75% of visa protection refusals are ultimately overturned upon review.2 The simple reality is that the vast majority of people seeking asylum in Australia are genuine refugees but while they are treated like criminals, their mental and physical health suffers.

The cost to our community, the harm done to real people who need our help, and the betrayal of our nation’s deepest values can no longer be ignored. Almost no other western country practices mandatory detention for asylum seekers – and after a decade of failed policy from Governments on both sides of the aisle, the dam is finally starting to break on this deeply inhumane and misguided policy.

Help end this now:

One of the worst aspects of detention is the reviled ‘Management Unit’. One story that makes us shudder: guards entered the room of an asylum seeker and ordered him to strip. He refused, because, apart from it being deeply humiliating for a Muslim man to be naked in front of others, his 7-year old daughter was in the room. The guards then beat him up, handcuffed him and took him to the “Management Unit,” a series of solitary confinement cells.

Julian Burnside QC, having seen a video of a Management Unit cell, describes it like this: "there’s a cell about 3.5 metres square, with a mattress on the floor. There is no other furniture; the walls are bare. A doorway, with no door, leads into a tiny bathroom. The cell has no view outside but it is never dark. The occupant has nothing to read, no writing materials, no TV or radio; no company yet no privacy because a video camera observes and records everything, 24 hours a day. The detainee is kept in the cell 23.5 hours a day. For half an hour a day he is allowed into a small exercise area where he can see the sky."

With some detainees spending close to 2 years in detention and many suffering post traumatic stress, it’s no wonder that on our watch detainees are attempting suicide by hanging themselves from trees.

As one interviewee said last night, having attempted and failed to commit suicide: "unfortunately even death didn’t want me."

Sign our urgent petition here:

No one coming to Australia should be made to feel this way – much less those brave enough to flee our world’s most violent and oppressive regimes. And the thing is, we think that in their heart of hearts, our Government agrees. As the former Minister for Immigration Senator Evans said in 2008: "Labor rejects the notion that dehumanising and punishing unauthorised arrivals with long-term detention is an effective or civilised response. Desperate people are not deterred by the threat of harsh detention – they are often fleeing much worse circumstances."3

There is now growing momentum from within the government to live up to these words but as we know, our politicians will only ever soar as high as we demand. Can you help tip the balance toward a more humane approach?

Thanks for taking a stand – let’s end this,
the GetUp Team

P.S. Later today mental health professionals will begin their campaign against prolonged mandatory detention. The momentum for change has begun – sign up here:

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