29 November 2013


Asylum seekers detained offshore at Australia's behest are kept in inhumane conditions, with children treated harshly in breach of international law, United Nations inspection teams have found.

Their scathing reports found the Nauru and Manus Island centres were focused on sending asylum seekers home rather than "promoting safe, fair and humane conditions".

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees visited the centres in October and recently issued reports finding that Australia's agreements with its island neighbours had left hundreds in legal limbo and with serious concerns for their mental health.

The findings paint an especially dire picture for children and survivors of torture. The Nauru inspectors met several of the 95 child detainees, who drew pictures highlighting their distress.

The inspectors found children were living in hot, humid, cramped conditions with little privacy, were not going to school and their parents held deep concerns for their mental health.

Australia's stance towards asylum seekers is in sharp contrast to the vision proposed in the ‘Affirmation of Welcome’ which was read and signed by representatives of the world’s major religions at the Religions for Peace 9th World Assembly in Vienna. The document was developed in response to the UN High Commissioner for Refugee’s recommendation for the development of guidance for faith leaders to welcome the forcibly displaced into their respective communities, and to stand together against xenophobia.

Meanwhile 138 organisations led by the Refugee Council of Australia and including 63 faith-based organisations from four major religious traditions, have written to the Australian Prime Minister calling on him to stop using the term "illegal maritime arrivals" to describe asylum seekers arriving by boat, pointing out that it is NOT illegal to seek asylum (a fact that is acknowledged by senior members of the Government). The letter is available on the website of the Refugee Council of Australia.

The experience of those risking everything their attempt to find asylum in Australia is graphically portrayed in a report from two journalists from the New York Times who recently accompanied a group of asylum seekers on their perilous journey to Australia.
(photo is taken from the NY Times article)

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