eX-detainees’ Day Statement 2021: We seek to determine our own future by pushing for long-term changes for our community.

We, Refugee eX-detainees in so called Australia, mark the 27th of September 2021 as eX-detainees’ Day for the sixth year in a row. On eX-detainees’ Day we commemorate the ongoing political struggle, pain, suffering and resilience of refugees around the world, many of whom are detained whilst crossing borders to seek 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 are not controlled by the community they claim to represent, which in itself fails to address the racist oppression and structural violence that marks our lives.  On the other hand, eX-detainees’ Day is initiated, controlled and directed by eX-detainees . On this day we seek to determine our own future by pushing for long-term changes for our community that are outlined in our 10 eX-detainee demands. We raise our voices to counter the narratives of a refugee sector dominated by the voices of non-detainees and non-eX-detainees.  We also honour the detainees who have died in detention, or continue to experience trauma arising from indefinite, arbitrary detention and torture.

The Australian Labor party first introduced mandatory detention of Refugees in 1992 when boats of Refugees fleeing persecution in countries such as China, Vietnam and Cambodia were arriving in Australia.  Australian PM John Howard took it to the next level, using the “war against terror” in September 2001 as a smokescreen to introduce even more racist immigration policies against refugees arriving by boat and win elections.  These brutal anti-refugee policies continue to be upheld by BOTH sides of government to this day and no OECD country has matched the brutality of Australia’s onshore and offshore mandatory detention policy. Our community has been subjected to over 30 years of misery to serve the interests of politicians and profiteers of the refugee detention and defence industry.

The problem is not refugees who come here by boat- the problem is the white supremacist responses to us in Australia.

We have been ignored during the Australian bushfire crisis and continue to be ignored during the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether there is a pandemic or not, white supremacist refugee policies and carceral structures continue across Australia. The ongoing lockdowns to stop the spread of COVID-19 across Australia has made our already marginalised eX-detainee members more vulnerable – with even less access to secure employment, welfare and basic but essential resources. We are frequently locked down in our homes without warning and are even more routinely targeted and overly policed.

The demonisation of refugees who seek safe haven in Australia by boat, mandatory and indefinite detention policies, boat turn back schemes and the reopening of offshore camps have been used to win elections.

All three political parties in Australia (The Greens, Labor and Liberal National Coalition) who support mandatory detention are complicit in detention torture and abuse. Meanwhile, Labor and the Greens claim that they care about refugees. If you have joined or voted for any of these parties without questioning them, you are directly complicit in Australia’s mandatory detention policies. SHAME ON YOU.

The Australian government spent $464 Million on expanding the onshore refugee detention torture network, this financial year (2021). The government also spent a further $1.2 Billion on their offshore detention torture network during this financial year.  In fact over the last 8 years, Australia has spent more than $12 Billion on offshore detention of Refugees.  This white supremacist circus extends to us eX-detainees when we are “released” after experiencing rape, suicide, murder and permanent injuries in these detention torture sites run by successive Australian governments.  Many of us live below the poverty line and are not allowed to work or study.  Many of us, including some of us who arrived more than 20 years ago, even if we have citizenship status, have not seen our families for years.  So many of us have not been able to be reunited with our families. Quite a number of us have still not got citizenship, even after residing in this country for over a decade or more.

We condemn governments, private companies and non-profit agencies that are part of the detention supply chain and work with the government to oppress us. Witnessing the ongoing oppression and torture of other refugees and asylum seekers in detention centres adds another layer of trauma that impacts our mobility every day.

On eX-detainees’ Day in 2021, we demand 

  • The immediate end to punitive, arbitrary and indefinite detention of our community members.
  • An end to the forcible deportation of people back to a country where they face punishment, torture, detention, degrading treatment, persecution, or death. 
  • The immediate release of all detainees both onshore and offshore, into the community with permanent protection visas and humanitarian support. 
  • That government provides eX-detainees who are/will be released with adequate access to healthcare, welfare support, education and training and legal support and advocacy.
  • 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 demand the immediate release of Medevac refugee detainees at hotels across Australia, along with state accountability and action for permanent protection and community settlement. 

Finally, we should not only hold the government accountable but also the ‘nonprofit” industry governed and run by non-eX-detainees that continuously demoralise us and perpetuate the severe discrimination we face in our daily lives.

The white saviour organisations and campaigners who “advocate” or create meaningless campaigns and initiatives must END and must be held accountable, and they should stop vulture careerism through our bodies. Groups like these run campaigns and run away from responsibilities but we don’t have any escape – we are still here – it is about us, our lives and our future. No-one can replace our detention experience and our voices with politicians, lawyers and humanitarian refugees who arrived by planes or any other non-eX-detainee person. We are the experts in our own lives- not the so called “refugee experts” propagated by the media and other non-eX-detainee led organisations who drown out our voices and support the systems that continue to detain and torture us.

We are routinely tortured and abused in detention as well as in the community where we are heavily policed, systematically discriminated against and abused as well. We are treated as disposable in this country- and this must end. 

As eX-detainees in so called 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.

’Nothing About Us Without Us’

RISE eX-detainee Team @ 2021