Federal government transfers frail detainee to remote prison

Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton is sending detainees to remote prisons in a pandemic.

The federal government has successfully turned a humanitarian decision into a cruel one, by forcing the transfer of a frail detainee from one detention centre in Melbourne to a remote one in Western Australia.

On August 19, the Federal Court dismissed the man’s application to stop the government from deporting him to Yongah Hill Immigration Detention Centre in WA, away from his family.

The previous week, Justice Bernard Murphy ruled that the man must be released from Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation (MITA), due to concerns about him catching COVID-19 because of pre-existing medical conditions.

The 68-year old had been living with his family for more than 10 years until he was suddenly detained last year. He has multiple illnesses, including diabetes.

The man’s lawyer, Sanmati Verma, condemned the federal government’s response to the health crisis in detention centres as “haphazard and dangerous” for detainees, staff and the broader community.

Spokesperson for the Human Rights Law Centre David Burke agreed, saying that detention facilities create unacceptable health risks for the detainees and others. He said it is urgent to move people out of “unsafe detention centres and into the community where they can safely socially distance.”

Carolyn Graydon from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre’s Human Rights Law Program said she is worried for the man’s life.

“It is disheartening to see the extreme lengths the Minister is taking to avoid the only sensible, reasonable and humane outcome, being the release of this man from detention to his home, rather than continuing to be held in a high risk detention environment which threatens his life.”

The court’s decision follows on from Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton’s order to reopen the Christmas Island Immigration Detention Centre and fly hundreds of detainees and staff between Victoria, New South Wales, WA and Christmas Island.

Meanwhile, other countries, including the Britain and Canada, have released large numbers of people from immigration detention to protect them from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Department of Home Affairs has now informed the man’s lawyers that he will be flown 3330 kilometres to a detention centre an hour outside of Perth. Meanwhile, everyone else has to abide by the strict border closures during COVID-19.

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