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Adjournment: Refugees in Mantra Hotel

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Samantha Ratnam
Leader of the Victorian Greens
23 April 2020

My adjournment matter is for the Premier, and the action I seek is that he urgently advocates to the federal government for the immediate release of people seeking asylum who are being held in detention into the community in order to protect their safety and wellbeing in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes the 67 men currently being held in detention at the Mantra hotel in Preston. They have been held there for months in terrible living conditions, most of them having to share small rooms with two to three others, with no access to fresh air and no access to outdoor spaces. They fear catching the COVID virus and spend most of their time trapped in their rooms, avoiding immigration guards who are not practising physical distancing and who have not been given personal protective equipment. Very few, if any, measures have been put in place to reduce their risk of exposure to the coronavirus. The hotel is already a high-risk environment, with a rotating set of guards coming in from the community and the other floors being used for external guests, including airline crew.

It is a similar picture in detention centres elsewhere in the state and on Manus and Nauru islands, where people held in detention are feeling fearful and forgotten in the face of COVID-19. And there are thousands more who are living in the community while their applications for asylum are being processed but who are now losing employment and housing and not being given any government assistance. The UN has called for immigration detainees to be temporarily released to help stop the virus from spreading amongst the vulnerable populations detained in these centres. But Australia is refusing, and our state is not doing anything to help.

We should be taking measures to keep everybody safe during the pandemic, regardless of wealth, race or immigration status. A compassionate response to the COVID-19 crisis cannot ignore the needs of those who have come to our country to seek refuge and asylum and our protection. I ask the Premier to urgently advocate for the immediate release of people seeking asylum into the community in order to protect their safety and wellbeing.

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Samantha Ratnam
Leader of the Victorian Greens
23 April 2020
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