Australia has been repeatedly criticised for its tough policy on refugees and asylum seekers. It says the policy is necessary to discourage people risking their lives at sea to reach Australian territory. Australian asylum seekers who arrive by boat are transported to off-shore processing centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea. Nauru has previously denied claims of abuse at the refugee centre. Around 750 people granted refugee status are living on Nauru with 10,000 locals.
An Amnesty International report, titled Island of Despair, compares Australia’s asylum seeker camp on the Pacific island of Nauru to an open-air prison. This claim has been has been rejected by Australia. The Amnesty International report said this was a “deliberate policy to inflict harm on refugees” and imposes conditions that “amount to torture”. Amnesty also alleges that many asylum seekers on Nauru have attempted suicide as a result of conditions in indefinite detention. “The policy that the Australian government is selling to the world as a success is one that it has acknowledged to the public is cruel. It has earned Australia unique notoriety as a country that will do everything it can to make sure refugees don’t reach its shores and to punish people who dared to try.”
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said, “I reject that claim totally. It is absolutely false. The Australian government’s commitment is compassionate and it’s strong.”
The Nauruan government has not responded to the Amnesty report. It has previously criticised similar allegations. The report said refugee children were too afraid to attend schools on the island because of high levels of violence and sexual harassment from locals. The Nauruan government claimed this to have been “stage-managed”.
Australia and asylum
- the number of asylum seekers travelling to Australia by boat has risen sharply and many have died making the journey.
- the government adopted tough policies intended as a deterrent
- all arrivals are detained. Under the policies asylum seekers are processed offshore at centres on Nauru and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.
- the government has also adopted a policy of tow-backs or turning boats around.