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Democrats call for Iraqis stranded on Nauru to be given freedom too.

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DEMOCRATS MEDIA 04/397 MONDAY 17 MAY 2004 SENATOR ANDREW BARTLETT LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN DEMOCRATS AND IMMIGRATION SPOKESPERSON Democrats Call for Iraqis Stranded on Nauru to be Given Freedom Too The Australian Democrats have welcomed the announcement that over 90 Afghan refugees detained on Nauru will soon be given freedom, but have called on the government to also free the Iraqis that are still stranded there. Democrats Leader Senator Andrew Bartlett, who has twice visited the detainees on Nauru, said every time some people are freed, it increases the depression and stress amongst those who are left behind. "When I visited Nauru in January, the Iraqis there specifically asked me to make sure they weren't forgotten. They know the Afghanis there have had their cases reviewed because of the specific changing and deteriorating situation in parts of their country, but Iraq has hardly been a sea of tranquillity lately either. "I could not promise the Iraqis on Nauru that I could free them, but I will certainly honour my pledge to them that they would not be forgotten. "The Democrats call on Australians to join us in urging the Minister for Immigration Senator Amanda Vanstone to let the remaining people out of detention on Nauru and give them freedom in Australia. "The Howard Government has acknowledged that it is not realistic to expect anyone to return to Iraq in the foreseeable future. People should not be kept locked up just because their country has become unsafe." "The situation in Iraq is something which the Iraqis on Nauru have no control over. The Iraqis on Nauru may or may not meet the criteria of refugee, but they certainly are not criminals and they don't deserve to stay locked up in extreme isolation. They have already been detained in Nauru for over two and a half years. It could be that long again before Iraq is safe and secure and they should not have to stay locked up in the meantime." "We must remember that the detainees have been in the isolating and despairing situation on Nauru for well over 2 years now with no end in sight. When those who are left see people who they have shared that time with leaving them, it will dramatically increase their despair and hopelessness, which is already dangerously high. "Senator Vanstone must act to give them freedom now. There are plenty of options the Minister could use, including using some of the extra places under the Special Humanitarian Program which she recently announced. I have no doubt there would be many Australians willing to sponsor these people into Australia and provide the necessary assistance." Media Contact - Rowena Bew - 0400 729 555