Human Rights Commissioner calls for release of detainees amid virus alarm

Australian detainees protest
Detainees at Kangaroo Point APOD protest over conditions in detention. Image: Kasun Ubayasiri/SBS

By Stefan Armbruster of SBS News

Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner has called for the “urgent” and “immediate” release of immigration detainees in line with recommendations of peak medical bodies advising the federal government on their response to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Commissioner Edward Santow in an exclusive interview with SBS News said they should be put into community detention where it was safe to do so.

About 1400 people are currently in detention centres on mainland Australia, including in “alternative places of detention” (APODs), where there have been daily protests in Brisbane and Melbourne.

READ MORE: Refugees, asylum seekers flag fears over possible Brisbane hotspot

Australian medical specialist groups, lawyers and human rights organisations have for weeks warned about the threat immigration detention poses as coronavirus infection hotspots.

“We need to heed experts who have been guiding all the government’s activities here,” said Commissioner Santow.

This article has been republished in brief with SBS and the author’s permission.

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