eX-detainees’ Day Statement 2020

As eX-detainees in Australia, we acknowledge that the land we seek protection on is the land of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples whose sovereignty was never ceded. Always was, always will be Aboriginal land.

We, eX-detainees in Australia, mark the 23rd of September 2020 as eX-Detainees’ Day. This is the FIFTH year in a row RISE eX-detainees have commemorated eX-detainees’ Day.  We seek to determine our own futures.  On eX-detainees Day we commemorate the ongoing political struggle, pain, suffering and resilience of Refugees and Asylum seekers around the world, many of whom are detained whilst seeking protection. We raise our collective voice to spread awareness and to fight this injustice.

eX-detainees Day is to be distinguished from events like Refugee Week or World Refugee Day. These events do not seek to address the racist, structural violence that marks our lives. In contrast, eX-detainees Day is initiated, controlled and directed by eX-detainees from RISE. On this day we push for long-term changes. We also raise our voices to counter the narratives of a refugee sector dominated by the voices of non-detainees.

Over the last three decades, evidence shows us that Australia’s detention regime has produced systemic detainee deaths, torture and sexual abuse within mandatory detention centres after people arrive by boat to seek asylum. The Australian government fails to justify the indefinite detention of asylum seekers and has refused the adoption of provisions which ensure freedom from arbitrary detention, as consistent with international human rights conventions.

Australia is a major party in international human rights treaties including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). Nevertheless, Australia remains as one of the leading countries in the world operating indefinite and arbitrary detention of Refugees.

Refugees and asylum seekers continue to suffer from cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment in detention centres. This includes deprivation of our liberty, separation from family, tortuous uncertainty regarding our release into the community and abuse by detention staff, resulting in self-harm, forceful or coercive deportation, and hunger strikes.

Further, indefinite detention of asylum seekers has produced significant, ongoing health problems, and trauma including anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. A Countless number of detainees have lost their lives – many from suicide – due to government negligence and lack of adequate access to medical support. To this day we carry those physical and psychological scars. Permanent psychological trauma manifests in our lives. For those of us who are still detained, the injury to our minds and bodies continues. We are also threatened with being deported to countries where we face persecution for the very issues we sought refuge from.

eX-detainees’ and detainees’ family members including children have been significantly impacted by witnessing self-harm and trauma suffered by their loved ones within the immigration detention centre.  eX-detainees living in the community often have little or no access to education, secure housing, welfare, or basic health care services.  This disproportionately impacts the eX-detainees who are already vulnerable to mental health issues as a result of their previous exposure to traumatic events.  The labels of “Refugee”, “Permanent resident” or “Citizen” bestowed upon us by various state authorities after subjecting us to the torture of detention is meaningless when we, our families and our children suffer from the scars of Australia’s white supremacist refugee detention policies.

Australian politicians have never admitted the freedom of detainees is as valuable as the freedom of those individuals who breached executive government or legislative protocols.  The Australian government continuously uses asylum seekers issues as political games and pawns to impose real fear on the public, gain votes and win elections.

However, asylum seeker issues in this country are not only discussed in a vote swinging issue, but as propaganda designed to impose fear into the community.  Asylum seekers are depicted as a real threat to the Australian’s community. In reality, most Asylum seekers and Refugees flee their countries which are predominantly controlled by colonial and new-colonisation powers.

Seeking asylum is a fundamental human right. We should not be punished merely because we seek asylum or protection and freedom in this country. We demand immediate protection of our civil rights. We have the right to live freely with dignity, respect and while exercising the fundamental human rights in the land we choose to live in and seek protection.  Australia should adhere to international human rights and implement the legal provisions which protect our human rights and civil liberties.

Australia has aided many countries with military expansion and border security and contributes to a wartime legacy creating millions of Refugees and forceful displacement of civilians from their origins. The Australian government’s human rights violations in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka are avoidable.

We condemn the decriminalisation of arbitrarily detaining refugees coming to Australia by boats, a practice which is prohibited under international law. We cannot allow our voices to be suppressed by the systemic violation of our human rights by the Australian government and the private companies profiting from these arrangements.  The government’s illegal and immoral conduct adds to the trauma we already suffered and subsequently impacted on our daily life both physically and psychologically.

We demand the immediate end to mercurial detention of our community members. On this specific day, eX-detainee’s Day, we call on the government to implement international human rights treaties and free all detainees from arbitrary detention. We demand Australia fulfil its international obligations whereby no one should be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman treatment. No one should be coercively or forcibly deported to a country where they face punishment, torture, detention, degrading treatment, persecution, or death. We demand the government to immediately release ALL Refugees and Asylum seekers into the community and provide permanent protection visas and humanitarian support.  We demand the government provide refugees with adequate access to healthcare, welfare support, education and training, and access to justice to resolve their legal issues.

Further, we demand accountability and reparations from governmental and non-governmental agencies and individuals who have formed part of the asylum seeker/refugee detention, torture and abuse supply chain. We condemn governments, private companies and non-profit agencies that are part of the detention supply chain. Witnessing the ongoing oppression and torture of other refugees and asylum seekers in detention centres adds another layer of trauma which impacts on our mobility every day.

As we always say, we require freedom, justice, ongoing support and protection NOT incarceration. States have the obligation to uphold our human rights, not exploit us for political gain. We denounce the torture, abuse and bloodshed occurring in immigration detention centres.

Ways to support eX-detainees self-determination and get involved in campaigns led by eX-detainees

  1. Share eX-detainees’ ten demands which address urgent issues affecting asylum seekers and refugees seeking protection from persecution. The demands identify systemic changes that need to occur in order to dismantle unjust laws and institutions that engage in and promote abuse and criminalisation of our members: https://www.riserefugee.org/topic/ex-detainees-demands
  2. The Sanction Australia Campaign https://www.riserefugee.org/topic/sanction-australia
  3. Detention Divestment Campaign https://www.riserefugee.org/divestment-call
  4. 10 things you can do if you are not an eX-detainee https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cy8aPBocBnI
‘Nothing About Us Without Us’
eX-detainee Team