Asylum seekers are being held up in immigrations cells in Australia for more than 689 days on average, a report from a prominent non-governmental organisation (NGO) has revealed, calling on the government to end the “harsh and unlawful policy.”
The spotlight on Australia’s detention policies emerged after Serbian Tennis star Novak Djokovic was put in detention hotel
There are eight people who have now spent more than 10 years in Australian immigration detention, and 117 have been detained for longer than five years, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).
According to the home affairs department, about 1,459 people are being held currently at immigration facilities in Australia, including more than 70 refugees and asylum seekers transferred from Nauru and Manus Island, reported The Independent.
Under Canberra's hardline immigration policy, asylum seekers, including children, who try to reach Australia by boat are sent to offshore detention centres in Papua New Guinea and Nauru, where they are held indefinitely while refugee applications are processed.
They are blocked from being resettled in Australia even if found to be genuine refugees.
Canberra justifies its severe policies saying that they serve as deterrence to discourage people from seeking asylum in Australia. It says “stopping the boats” has also helped prevent deaths at sea.
The average length of detention increased to 689 days, vastly longer than comparable countries like the United States and Canada, where the averages are 55 days and 14 days respectively, HRW says.
"These statistics show how completely alone Australia is among like-minded countries, in terms of the indefinite detention of asylum seekers and refugees for years on end," HRW Australia researcher Sophie McNeill told the BBC.
"Under international law, immigration detention should not be used as punishment, but rather should be an exceptional measure of last resort to carry out a legitimate aim," she said.
Since 2013, Australia has detained all asylum seekers who try to arrive on its shores via boat, pledging that they will never be allowed to live permanently in the country - even if they are found to be a legitimate refugee.