01 January 2018

Human rights groups back in legal case, demand urgent release of people in detention to stop spread of COVID-19

Human rights groups are demanding people in immigration detention be urgently released due to the serious threat of COVID-19, backing in a legal case filed against Peter Dutton about conditions in onshore detention.


Medical experts have warned that people in detention are facing a serious risk of infection because of cramped, overcrowded conditions and an inability to physically distance.

Internationally the UK, Belgium and Spain have all preventatively released people from immigration detention. A number of US judges have also ordered the release of people from detention due to the serious health risk. 

Amnesty International Australia Refugee Coordinator, Dr Graham Thom, said: 

“We’re in constant contact with the men in detention, and they’re terrified. Brought to Australia for urgent medical care , they’re particularly vulnerable if COVID-19 were to break out”.

“It’s a public health emergency and the government must act immediately on medical advice and get these people to safe accommodation, which, by the way, the government has available to them.”

CEO of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, Kon Karapanagiotidis said

“The ASRC’s Human Rights Law Program represents 40 people seeking asylum held in detention.”

“People have no space to physically distance from guards, staff or each other, they can’t get tested for COVID19 on request and are afraid they will get infected and die.”  

“The only way to protect people and the wider community is to listen to doctors and prevent an outbreak by releasing them urgently.”

GetUp’s Human Rights Campaign Director Renaire Druery said:

“The government’s own health advice is that we must physically distance to protect ourselves and each other from this virus, but for the people in detention this is literally impossible.

“We’ve heard a stark warning from doctors that this is an impending public health crisis, if coronavirus makes it into detention centres it will rapidly spread, why is the government dragging its feet?

**CEO of the Refugee Council of Australia, Paul Power said: **

“The Commonwealth Department of Health has nominated people in detention facilities as one of several groups of people in Australia at risk of serious infection from COVID-19.  People in these facilities are not able to maintain the social distancing recommended by health authorities to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19. 

It is imperative that our political leaders take urgent steps to ensure the safety of not just those concerned, but the wider Australian community.”