Rights groups slam Australian offshore detention policy

Rights groups have slammed Australian offshore detention policy, saying the policy is a "disaster" and is inhumane.

Rights groups slam Australian offshore detention policy

World Bulletin / News Desk

Two years after Australia signed a deal with Papua New Guinea (PNG) on resettling refugees, human rights groups have called its offshore detention policy a "disaster".

In a statement released Thursday, Human Rights Watch and the Human Rights Law Centre said more than 850 asylum seekers and 87 refugees remain in indefinite custody under poor conditions on Manus Island.

"After two years, Australia’s experiment in offshore detention has been a disaster," said Elaine Pearson, Human Rights Watch’s Australia director. "Even the few people provided refugee status have been denied freedom of movement and the right to work. All should be allowed to move on with their lives in dignity and security."

Daniel Webb, the Centre’s legal advocacy director, referred to two deaths among asylum seekers on Manus -- one of whom was allegedly beaten by detention center contract staff and the other suffered a fatal infection from a foot injury.

"Two years after the Regional Resettlement Arrangement was announced, the tragic reality is that more asylum seekers sent to Manus have died than have been resettled," he said. "People found to be refugees deserve a real solution -- not a transfer to a facility down the road where they remain in limbo."

The statement underlined that while the rights groups had been permitted by visit the transit center at Lorengau town in June and July, PNG immigration had denied access to the Lombrum detention facility.

The statement said that serious human rights concerns that been found in areas such as pressure to return to home countries and lengthy delays in refugee processing; mental health problems linked to prolonged and indefinite detention; arbitrary detention of asylum seekers and refugees in the police lock-up and prison.

They also included restrictions on refugees’ freedom of movement and work rights, assault of a refugee by alleged authorities in Lorengau, and mistreatment of gay asylum seekers by other detainees.

The statement cited asylum seekers who avoided status determination due to not feeling safe and not seeing "a future for themselves" in PNG.

It also cited a refugee who described the mental health problems facing those at the transit center.

"In detention you become domesticated. Like an animal inside a cage -- you think they are fine, they look fine, they seem healthy, but they could not survive in nature. That is like us now," the unnamed refugee said.

"Mentally, they are not fine. The mind doesn’t work very well," he added in describing others at the center. "They read, but they can only read a page and they forget. They lose concentration. They won’t leave their rooms. They have lost the ability to live."

The rights groups called on Australia to halt all further transfers to Manus, and find an alternative resettlement policy for refugees in other countries such as Australia.

They also said Australia must push PNG to immediately launch a comprehensive integration policy under which recognized refugees would be given common identity documents such as ordinary residency and employment authorization, freedom of movement and work rights.

Under the deal signed July 19, 2013, Australia sends asylum seekers arriving irregularly by boat to Manus, where they are due to be processed and resettled in other parts of PNG. It costs the Australian government around AU$600 million ($450 million) a year.

The breakdown of the asylum seekers’ nationalities is not known but statistics released last year show that Iranians make up the single largest group held in Australia’s detention network, accounting for 31.5 percent of detainees. Significant numbers also come from Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 16 Temmuz 2015, 17:11