Safeguards for refugees and asylum seekers serious gap in Government responses to COVID-19 crisis 

Greens spokesperson for Multiculturalism and Health Hon Alison Xamon MLC has called on the Federal Government to immediately release refugees and asylum seekers from ALL detention centres – to ensure they have the best chance to protect themselves against COVID-19.

Ms Xamon said the risks to people held in WA’s detention centres are the same as people currently in WA prisons – any outbreak of COVID-19 could cost lives, and put added pressure on our state’s medical system.

She said safeguards also needed to be put in place to ensure all refugees and asylum seekers, including those living in the community, had access to the same financial and other supports as other Australians.

“I echo the concerns of refugee agencies and call on the Government to immediately release all people currently detained, including people held at Yongah Hill Immigration Centre at Northam, and the detention facility at Perth Airport,” Ms Xamon said.

“These facilities are overcrowded, making it impossible to implement adequate social distancing – and creating the perfect environment for an outbreak of coronavirus.”

Ms Xamon said the Federal Government must ensure all refugees and asylum seekers had access to Medicare funded services- while the McGowan Government must ensure refugees and asylum seekers in WA had access to education, family and domestic violence and other support services.

She said people’s legal status must remain consistent – with any bridging visa grants and renewals carried out without delays.  

“I share the concerns of the Refugee Council of Australia for people currently held in PNG and on Nauru; in detention centres across the country, and in the community,” Ms Xamon said.

“I am very concerned about the potential for human rights abuses, if these measures are not put into place immediately.

Ms Xamon said she was shocked to learn earlier this month that an asylum seeker detained in Melbourne had been medically tested and isolated after showing symptoms concurrent with COVID-19, but had NOT been told whether he had been tested – or had – the virus. 

She said, to date, strategies to protect refugees and asylum seekers had been a serious gap in Governments’ response to COVID-19. 

“Many refugees and asylum seekers are already living with trauma and they are already living with uncertainty –  coronavirus will certainly be an added burden for this already vulnerable group,” Ms Xamon said.

“We must ensure that we are upholding our legal, and moral responsibility, to protect them as best we can from the virus and its health and economic consequences.”