Mercy Sister calls for release of Sri Lankan refugee

Sr Elizabeth Young RSMA Mercy Sister has launched a petition urging Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton to release into the community a Sri Lankan refugee who has spent 11 years in detention.

Sr Elizabeth Young, who works in the Wilcannia-Forbes Diocese, first met Alex (not his real name) through her pastoral work at Curtin Detention Centre in Western Australia in 2012.

Of Singhalese ethnicity and Catholic religion, Alex fled his country in fear for his life in the midst of bloodshed during the height of the country’s civil war. He was 29 years old when he arrived at Christmas Island in March 2009 and was convicted of people smuggling in relation to his journey to Australia. After spending time in prison the conviction was overturned by the Court of Appeal in Western Australia in 2012. Since then he has been in a string of mainland detention centres and sent back to Christmas Island twice.

Speaking to Sr Elizabeth by phone this month, Alex spoke of the impact of the constant moving between different detention centres for so long. “Every day they are giving me mental torture,” he said.

After applying for a Safe Haven Enterprise Visa Alex was recognised as a refugee in 2017, however, in May 2019 Mr Dutton refused his application, finding that he failed the “character test”.

Sr Elizabeth said the Federal Court reversed the decision in February, yet Alex remains in detention, awaiting a further decision.

Sr Elizabeth said Alex’s many supporters in the community could vouch for his character and know his compassion and resilience.

The petition can be found at

Source: Mercy Sister calls for release of Sri Lankan refugee (By Jenny Brinkworth, The Southern Cross)


Sr Elizabeth Young RSM
Sr Elizabeth Young RSM during her time as a pastoral worker at Curtin Detention Centre in WA (The Southern Cross)

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