back to the Immigration Detention Monitor

26 April 2020 – Australia

Refugees Queue for Food in Brisbane, (Hakeem Kakar,
Refugees Queue for Food in Brisbane, (Hakeem Kakar, "This is not Self-Isolation: Manus Island Refugees Call for Release," RNZ, 31 March 2020,

Despite growing calls from a broad range of actors – including civil society, medical professionals, infectious disease experts, Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner, and detainees themselves–the Australian government had still not taken steps to release vulnerable detainees as of late April. The government has acknowledged that those in correctional and detention settings are most at risk. However, immigration detention measures continue to be imposed even as some refugees previously detained on Manus Islands and Nauru are now detained in Australian hotels.

Protests are reportedly taking place almost daily in detention facilities. One Afghan refugee held in a Melbourne hotel was quoted as saying, “We should be free, we should be released in the community for self-isolation. This is not self-isolation. They are closing the clubs, the bars, the pubs, the gyms, everything … but what about here? We are like some kind of animals?”

On 22 April, a chronically ill refugee held in Australian immigration detention launched a case in the high court seeking his release into the community in a bid to protect him from the virus. Represented by lawyers from Australia’s Human Rights Law Centre, the individual is challenging his detention on the grounds that the Australian government is breaching its duty of care by failing to establish conditions that would allow him to comply with public health guidelines on social distancing. Reportedly, this is the first of “many” cases that may be brought forward.