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Refugee advocates protest outside Brisbane Immigration Center to mark nine years of indefinite detention

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More than 100 refugee advocates gathered outside a Brisbane immigration detention center to protest Australia’s policy on asylum seekers and the indefinite detention of several detainees.

Tomorrow, eight years have passed since the federal government changed its policy on asylum seekers to ban anyone arriving by boat from settling in Australia.

It also marks nine years in detention for many of the men who remain inside the facility.

Protesters marched around the perimeter of the Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation Center (BITA) in Pinkenba, where around 35 detainees were housed.

The men were brought to Australia from offshore treatment centers on Nauru and Manus Island under now repealed medical evacuation laws.

A masked refugee advocate holds a “Welcome Refugees” sign during the demonstration in Brisbane.(

ABC News: Baz Ruddick

)

113 detainees across Australia were released on temporary transitional visas in March this year, all detained after being evacuated from Nauru and Manus Island for urgent medical treatment.

In Queensland, more than 20 evacuated detainees have been released after being housed in apartments on the inner-city suburb of Kangaroo Point for several months.

Lawyers said the men were being held indefinitely and do not know when they will be released.

“Still no answers”

Organizer Dane de Leon, of the Refugee Solidarity Meanjin group, said tomorrow marks a dark anniversary for the nation.

“Behind these walls there are still men locked up with no release date, they’ve been here since they were 14 and 15 and now they’re 23 and 24 and still no answers,” Ms. de Leon said.

Dane de Leon at a protest.
Protest organizer Dane de Leon said many inmates still had not received answers about their future.(

ABC News: Baz Ruddick

)

“They were taken into offshore detention in Nauru, PNG under the Medical Evacuation Bill because they needed… medical help, they were transferred ashore.

Protesters march with banners.
Protesters marched in front of BITA in Pinkenba, calling for the release of the evacuated detainees. (

ABC News: Baz Ruddick

)

“So far nothing has happened, no prospect of being resettled in a third country or of being resettled in the community.”

She said the fact that many Kangaroo Point inmates were released in February and March, but not the other men, showed the government’s “cruelty”.

“It’s arbitrary. They just said, ’50 of you will be released tomorrow,'” she said.

“They didn’t say who was going to be released and circumstantially there is no difference between the people who stay there and the people who stay outside.”

Ms de Leon said defenders believed their only option was to be as vocal as possible.

Former detainee Kazem Kazemi was released on March 2 this year.

He fled Iran as a refugee and spent five and a half years on Manus Island before being evacuated to Australia where he spent nearly two years at Kangaroo Point Central Apartments and the BITA center.

Kaz Kazemi plays the guitar
Kaz Kazemi is an Iranian refugee and musician who has spent more than five years in detention on Manus Island.

Mr Kazemi said he found it difficult to talk to the men who were still detained because he felt guilty about having the freedom when they didn’t.

“We are here to protest for our friends being held across Australia and in an offshore center,” Kazemi said.

“I’m really sad, I’m really not happy with this because I see my friends still locked up for no reason. They haven’t committed any crime.

“I hope the government will release them very soon and let them recover after a long time.”

“It’s not just numbers”

Rachel Bollerman, 20, said she joined the Refugee Action Collective because she disagreed with the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers under the migration law.

“Being here is a pretty stark contrast – we’re right next to the airport and there’s this big giant jail, so it’s definitely a place that gets a lot of emotions,” Ms. Bollerman said.

“It is important to come out in a large group and send these strong messages to the government that ordinary people in this country are saying no to this.

“We are just ordinary people who say it is wrong and illegal, and it should not be happening here in this country or anywhere else.

“It’s not just numbers.”

The Interior Ministry has been contacted for comment.