Asylum seeker families in Australia 'in fear' of deportation
As the Australian Government celebrates two years since a boat arrival of asylum seekers penetrated its borders, advocates say it's again threatening to deport families to Nauru.
As the Australian Government celebrates two years since any boat arrival of asylum seekers penetrated its borders, refugee advocates say Canberra is again threatening to deport families to Nauru.
On Tuesday, a Sudanese man who had been in Australia for medical treatment following a riot on Manus Island was flown to Christmas Island without warning, and three years after he arrived by boat his application for refugee status has not been processed.
A co-author of a recent report on women in Nauru says now families in community detention in Australia are being told to prepare to return to Nauru.
Alex Perrottet reports.
Protesters in the 'Let Them Stay' campaign earlier this year accused Australia's government of being complicit in child abuse by locking up families who had arrived by boat. Canberra responded to public pressure in April to allow a number of the refugee families previously held on Nauru to stay in Australia. But that was pre-election. Now that his government has retained power, the Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is firmly back on message.
MALCOLM TURNBULL: "To those people who seek to come to Australia by boat, don't. You will not succeed. You will be turned back. And we say this to the families in Australia who seek to bring people to Australia by boat, do not. You will not succeed, you will be inviting people to undertake a perilous voyage, which will fail."
The government claims its policy has saved lives at sea and prioritises genuine refugees who apply to come to Australia through legal channels. Yet refugee advocates say that the boat people policy is clear, making it pointless to maintain a dire situation for those languishing in detention centres offshore. Daniel Webb from the Human Rights Law Centre in Australia says a Sudanese man using the alias Waleed was injured in the Manus Island riot in 2014 that left Iranian man Reza Berati dead. He says Waleed was brought to Australia for treatment and was in community detention but was bundled onto a plane in the early hours of Tuesday.
DANIEL WEBB: "We've got to realise in this country that it's just not OK to lock up innocent people indefinitely in tiny islands and bounce them around the Pacific like they're sort of pawns on a chessboard. We need to assess their refugee claims and if they're found to be refugees allow them to begin rebuilding their lives."
A report titled Protection Denied, Abuse Condoned, Women on Nauru at Risk, was published in June this year. It details cases of rape and sexual assault, and says demountable rooms for single women on Nauru are placed in vulnerable areas in the bush where they have been attacked. The report's co-author Pamela Curr says the almost 200 people in community detention are now again living in fear of deportation and some have received calls from the Immigration Department saying they shouldn't get settled in Australia.
PAMELA CURR: "We've got little children, babies born, we saw these babies as they developed, who don't smile. We've got kids who wet their bed every night. They sleep with their parents because they're terrified of being sent back to detention. I can't tell you how distressing it is to see children as nervous and as anxious as these children are."
A 2014 Australian Commission of Audit report, which said it costed $400,000 Australian dollars a year to hold one asylum seeker in offshore detention; $239,000 a year to hold them in detention in Australia; and less than $100,000 a year for an asylum seeker to live in community detention. But the immigration minister, Peter Dutton has since said the cost is not the issue, telling Sky News a clear message still needs to be conveyed to those on Nauru and those in the business of bringing people on boats.
PETER DUTTON: "The point is that there are some people, who regardless of what is said what is offered for them to return to their country of origin, they won't accept it because they want an outcome, which is coming to Australia. And so if we can take that off the table for people then it starves the people smugglers."
But Pamela Curr says the government, which has a legal and moral duty to protect those people, is ensuring they live in fear even after arriving on the Australian mainland.
PAMELA CURR: "So of course these people are scared. They are waiting every day to see if they are going to get a call from the immigration department and what they are going to say to them. It's not a way for families to recover from the stress that they have endured on Nauru."
Daniel Webb says authorities in Australia need to rise above the politics and show some compassion.
DANIEL WEBB: "The politics around this issue in Australia is incredibly toxic and incredibly cynical. Secretive deportations in the middle of the night, it's an appalling way to treat vulnerable people. But I think however complex the politics, however complex the policy issue, deliberate cruelty to innocent people is never the solution."
Pamela Curr says Australia has stopped sending people to Manus Island since the PNG court ruled it was illegal, and Nauru clearly is no place for women and families.
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