The St Vincent de Paul Society in Australia has welcomed the Federal Government’s recent decision to release 58 refugees (previously medically transferred to Australia) who were held indefinitely in detention centres and hotels in Melbourne.

National Council President Claire Victory said these refugees had become pawns in a battle of political ideology in Australia, even though most had been confirmed as refugees by the governments of Nauru and Papua New Guinea prior to their medical transfer to Australia under the 2019 Medevac laws.

‘We call on the Morrison Government to release around 200 people who are still detained across Australia after their arrival for medical treatment,’ Ms Victory said.

‘The impact of almost eight years detention, and the uncertainty of indefinite detention on the men’s mental health has been well documented. The men have been released on bridging visas, which leaves them vulnerable and largely unsupported in the community.

‘We call on the Australian Border Force to brief not-for-profit organisations, such as the Society, who will be providing support to those being released into the community.

‘The Australian Government should be working with not-for-profit organisations to ensure that these people have access to a financial safety net and are not left destitute. Not-for-profit organisations have to rely on much-needed donations to provide this support and donations have been stretched during the pandemic.

‘These people have been detained for so long – it is unreasonable to expect them to find a place to live, get a job and secure an income overnight. The release of these people on a short-term visa which provides no path to safe and permanent resettlement is not good enough.

‘The Morrison Government must now release its plan for a permanent resettlement solution for all these people. It is unclear why the Morrison Government continues to refuse to take up the long-standing offer for resettlement in New Zealand.

‘There are also other people in Australia on these short-term visas who need help,’ Ms Victory said.