‘Aus­tralia de­lib­er­ately ig­nores refugee abuse’

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

AUS­TRALIA is de­lib­er­ately ig­nor­ing the in­hu­mane treatme—nt of refugees held on the South Pa­cific is­land of Nauru as a means of de­ter­ring oth­ers from at­tempt­ing the jour­ney to Aus­tralia, two rights groups have said.

Un­der Can­berra’s im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy, peo­ple in­ter­cepted while try­ing to reach the coun­try by boat are sent to a prison on Manus Is­land, in Pa­pua New Guinea, or one in Nauru, both of which have been crit­i­cised for their harsh con­di­tions and re­ports of abuse.

An es­ti­mated 1 200 men, women and chil­dren who sought refuge in Aus­tralia were trans­ferred in­stead to Nauru as “part of an Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment pol­icy since 2012”, Al Jazeera’s Jonah Hull re­ported.

The joint re­port — compiled by re­searchers from Amnesty In­ter­na­tional and Hu­man Rights Watch who were granted rare ac­cess to pris­ons on Nauru in July — is based on in­ter­views with 84 refugees and asy­lum seek­ers from coun­tries in­clud­ing Iraq, Iran, Pak­istan and Afghanistan, in ad­di­tion to ser­vice providers at the Aus­tralian-funded fa­cil­ity.

It al­leges the Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment could not be unaware of con­di­tions at the cen­tre.

“Fail­ure to ad­dress se­ri­ous abuses ap­pears to be a de­lib­er­ate pol­icy to de­ter fur­ther asy­lum seek­ers from ar­riv­ing in the coun­try by boat,” said Hull.

Suc­ces­sive Aus­tralian gov­ern­ments have sup­ported the pol­icy, which they say is needed to stop peo­ple drown­ing at sea dur­ing dan­ger­ous boat jour­neys, which usu­ally be­gin in In­done­sia.

“[The refugees] de­scribe prison-like liv­ing con­di­tions in bak­ing heat with many, the re­port says, de­vel­op­ing men­tal health prob­lems in­clud­ing se­vere anx­i­ety, in­abil­ity to sleep, mood swings, pro­longed de­pres­sion, and short­term mem­ory loss,” Amnesty re­searcher Anna Nei­s­tat told Al Jazeera.

“Adults and chil­dren spoke openly of hav­ing wanted to end their lives.”

Nei­s­tat, who con­ducted the in­ves­ti­ga­tion on the is­land, said Aus­tralia’s “pol­icy of ex­il­ing asy­lum seek­ers” was “cruel in the ex­treme. — Al Jazeera

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