It’s Curtins for compassion and our reputation


What is the cost of mandatory and inhumane detention? Damage to people, damage to our reputation worldwide. The reopening of the isolated and desolate Curtin detention centre and the suspension of the Migration Act will ripple for decades. As a barrister I have many clients who endured Baxter, Woomera, Curtin, Port Hedland etc., and now require ongoing psychiatric treatment, not because of the torture and trauma from their countries of origin, but because of the harm mandatory detention in appalling conditions caused. Remember Peter Qasim: seven years in detention. Remember Ahmed al-Kateb: stateless Palestinian who the commonwealth argued in the High Court could be detained without having ever broken a law, for the rest of his life. Remember Shayan Badraie, who stopped eating and speaking in Villawood and whom Philip Ruddock refused to allow to live with his family out of detention to enable him to recover: he was seven.

(And that cost you taxpayers millions in the court case and in compensation.) Punishing the innocent won’t stop the boats. Decent conditions and proper processing in those countries where the boats are coming from will. Fewer than 22,000 people have come here by boat in the past 30 years. Every year Australia has between 200,000 and 400,000 net migration. Each year there are 50,000 overstayers, tourists and so on who stay because they like it here. Don’t make refugee applicants the scapegoats. Claire O’Connor, chair, South Australian Council for Civil Liberties
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