By Stephen Cauchi
8 April 2022
Eight more asylum seekers have been released from the Park Hotel in Carlton, emptying it of detainees after nine years.
The Refugee Advocacy Coalition confirmed the refugees were released on Thursday, as part of a nationwide release of 23 asylum seekers.
The release was in addition to that of 19 other asylum seekers, released on April 1.
RAC spokesperson Ian Rintoul said nine people still remained in detention on the Australian mainland, who had been detained for nine years.
The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre estimated 10 people remained in detention across Australia, and that 20 people were released on Thursday.
“Regardless of how happy we are that we got another 23 out yesterday we are disgusted that it has taken so long to get these people out,” Mr Rintoul said.
“Every day that people are kept in subsequently is a reminder of just how arbitrary the releases have been, how deliberate the delays from the government have been and every day is another day of torture for people who have committed no crime.”
Mr Rintoul said the others released on Thursday came from the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation, the Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation and from centres in Perth and Adelaide.
He said the released asylum seekers would be granted bridging visas to stay in Australia temporarily.
Mr Rintoul said he believed there was a combination of reasons why the asylum seekers were released, including negative publicity for a struggling Coalition government.
But he said there were still thousands of asylum seekers in the community on temporary or bridging visas, in addition to those on Manus island.
“There is so much more to be done,” Mr Rintoul said.
“No matter how happy we are about the releases it’s just a constant reminder of the people that are still being kept in detention.”
Refugee advocate Bishop Philip Huggins said the release was “wonderful”. He said it was a much better narrative for Australia that it was politically beneficial to set people free, compared to keeping them in indefinite detention.
He said that the detention of star tennis player Novak Djokovic in the Park Hotel in January may have contributed to the release of the asylum seekers, by creating an awareness of the issue.
But Bishop Huggins said it was important to keep asylum seekers in mind as the country headed into election mode.
“Let’s change the narrative of the country through this as we head into the election campaign,” he said.
“Let’s be a country that fully welcomes refugees and heals people and doesn’t harm people. Let’s use this moment to reset who we are as an Australian people and nation.”
A March for Justice calling for better treatment of refugees and asylum seekers will go ahead on Sunday, meeting outside the State Library at 1.30pm.