‘Australia deliberately ignores refugee abuse’
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