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UNHCR News Comment on the Release of Refugees from Detention

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UNHCR News Comment on the Release of Refugees from Detention

This statement may be attributed to Adrian Edwards, UNHCR Representative for Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific, in Canberra.
8 April 2022
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UNHCR welcomes the Australian Government’s decision to release 26 refugees from detention facilities across the country this week.  

UNHCR has long advocated for an end to mandatory detention in Australia, where the average period of time that refugees are held has increased to 925 days.

It is worth noting that in Australia’s criminal justice system, any person who has served their sentence may re-enter the community. By contrast, refugees and other stateless people owed international protection, who are unable to return home, are increasingly being detained for long periods with no hope of release.  

Throughout UNHCR’s monitoring of these detention facilities over the past decade, we have witnessed first-hand the detrimental impacts of Australia’s detention system and the consequences that extended detention has on the health and well-being of people seeking safety and protection. 

Every person has the universal right to seek asylum with dignified and humane treatment, as enshrined in international law. We urge Australia to move from mandatory detention to a more humane approach that upholds its obligations and prevents further harm to those owed our protection. 

Additional information (as at 31 December 2021): 

  • In Australia, there are currently 145,964 persons of concern to UNHCR, including 55,606 refugees and 82,832 asylum seekers and 8,227 stateless persons. 
  • The average period of time held in detention for persons who have previously held a protection visa or humanitarian visa was 925 days. 
  • 757 asylum seekers (including those unsuccessful in their claims), humanitarian entrants and refugees were held in an immigration detention facility (excluding persons transferred from Nauru or PNG).  
  • From 1 January 2017 to 31 December 2021 there have been 16 deaths in immigration detention. During this same period there have also been 968 incidents of self-harm (actual) and 2177 incidents of self-harm (threatened). 

Media Contact: 

In Canberra, Charlotta Lomas [email protected] +61424 545 569