AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL, SMH, THE AUSTRALIAN, THE AGE (Australia)
SYDNEY – An Amnesty International report released on Friday called Australia’s offshore detention center for asylum seekers “a human rights catastrophe with no end in sight.”
The human rights organization spent three days inspecting the facility on the tiny South Pacific Island of Nauru, finding the detention center “totally inappropriate and ill-equipped, with 387 men cramped into five rows of leaking tents, suffering from physical and mental ailments-creating a climate of anguish as the repressively hot monsoon season begins.”
Refugee expert Dr. Graham Thom, who helped oversee Amnesty's study, said: “The situation on Nauru is unacceptable. The unlawful and arbitrary detention of these men in such destitute conditions is cruel, inhuman and degrading.”
During Amnesty International’s three-day survey, writes the Sydney Morning Herald, torrential rain left parts of the detention center under nearly a foot of water, with many tents and beddings drenched. Adding to the dreadful conditions, according to the organization, was a lack of information about the refugees’ situation and prospects.
“The climate of uncertainty was debilitating with no information being provided to asylum seekers and clear evidence that this temporary holding facility has been erected in haste, with no consideration for the individuals languishing in such squalid conditions,” said Thom.
Australian Immigration Minister Chris Bowen confirmed that the asylum seekers could be waiting five years before being resettled in Australia if their claims for refugee status were upheld, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.
The offshore processing centers, which had been opened by the Liberal government as part of the so-called Pacific Solution to discourage boat-people arrivals, and had been closed in 2008, were reopened by Julia Gillard’ Labor government in August this year.
This is a humiliating backflip by the government, wrote Cameron Stewart in The Australian, who recalls the Labor government promising it would never “lurch to the right on asylum seekers.”
“Refugee advocates, Greens voters and many traditional Labor voters are deeply discomforted by what they see as the increasingly hard-hearted treatment of those refugees who have sought refuge in Australia,” wrote Stewart.
The Age’s political editor, Michelle Grattan writes that the “handling of asylum seekers by both sides of politics has tarnished Australia's reputation abroad. Many countries, with much larger influxes, believe Australia has grossly overreacted.”
Amnesty International called on the Australian Government to “immediately cease transfers to Nauru as the human rights organization can see no purpose in holding asylum seekers on Nauru other than penalizing them for seeking asylum.”
Some photos of the Nauru detention facilities. The refugees are mostly from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq and Sri Lanka:
Nauru camp. Photos: DIAC