Refugees gather after the liberation of Park Hotel

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the recent release of asylum seekers is not a concession that government policy has been overbearing, but a demonstration that it has taken a long time to ‘clean up the mess of Labour’ .

Asked about the issue on SBS on Sunday evening, the PM said when Labor was last in government ‘they lost control of our borders’.

His comments follow the recent release of detainees, including from Melbourne’s Park Hotel, and an Australian government deal brokered with New Zealand to resettle asylum seekers there.

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The releases and the New Zealand deal were “a demonstration that it took us a long time to clean up the mess of Labour”, Mr Morrison said, noting that the Labor government had to open 17 detention centres.

“They detained children on Manus Island. We ended all that. We restored the borders.

“We got everyone out of detention and we were able to find places, including through the US arrangement and the New Zealand arrangement, which we’ve been working on for a few years, to make sure we can clean up the terrible mess and tragedies that have happened as a result of the failures of Labor borders,” the Prime Minister said.

His comments came after thousands turned out at Palm Sunday rallies across Australia to demand more humane policies towards refugees and asylum seekers.

Advocates are pushing the government to release all asylum seekers in detention, provide permanent protection for those with temporary visas and social safety nets, and strengthen the refugee welcome program.

The Palm Sunday marches took place after the release of more than 25 refugees last week, including eight people from the Park Hotel in Melbourne.

“Their detention has never been justified and clearly breaches Australia’s treaty obligations on arbitrary detention and the treatment of refugees,” the Australian Refugee Council said.

“It has seriously damaged the mental and physical health of individuals, cost Australian taxpayers a fortune, and done great damage to Australia’s international reputation.”

The Park Hotel is where tennis player Novak Djokovic was held earlier this year.

Djokovic was deported on the eve of the Australian Open after the Federal Court upheld the Immigration Minister’s decision to revoke his visa after he failed to meet strict vaccination requirements against COVID-19.

Organizer Ian Rintoul of the Refugee Action Collective said more than 5,000 people marched across the country on Sunday in what he saw as an important message to send to politicians.

‘We know there is no element of compassion from the coalition government…and Labor remains committed to overseas detention,’ he told AAP.

“We didn’t give up in 2019 when Scott Morrison was elected…and we’re not going to give up no matter who gets elected on May 21.”

Last month, the federal government announced 16,500 humanitarian places for Afghan nationals and resettled some 5,000 Ukrainians since the start of the Russian invasion.

The Resource Center for Asylum Seekers says 10 refugees remain in Australian detention centers while nearly 200 remain in offshore centers in Nauru and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.

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