COVID-19 and the Relentless Harms of Australia’s Punitive Immigration Detention Regime
Calls for the urgent release of people seeking asylum, refugees and other non-citizens held in immigration detention centres began as soon as the magnitude and reach of the global health crisis associated with COVID-19 became clear. Public health organisations quickly identified detention centres, as sites of mandatory and often overcrowded social confinement, as extremely high-risk places for both infection and onward transmission of COVID-19.
In Australia, before the end of March 2020, over 1180 health care professionals and epidemiologists called for the Government to release people from immigration detention, flatly stating that ‘[f]ailure to take action to release people seeking asylum and refugees from detention will . . . put them at greater risk of infection (and possibly death)’ (SBS News, 2020).