Refugee council: End this cruel human ping-pong

February 3, 2017
A protest at Manus Island.

The Refugee Council of Australia called for a bipartisan commitment on offshore detention on February 1.

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The Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) has called on political leaders to urgently bring the people imprisoned on Manus Island and Nauru to safety in Australia.

The growing uncertainty regarding the US refugee resettlement deal has prolonged the agony for the hundreds of men, women and children in offshore immigration detention, many of whom have been imprisoned for several years with no end date in sight. The effects of this were seen on Sunday as a teenager on Nauru tragically attempted to take his own life.

Tim O’Connor, Acting CEO of RCOA, said “It’s high time we ended this cruel political ping-pong and brought these people to safety in Australia. The volatility of the new Trump administration has cast further doubt as to the viability of a US resettlement deal, prolonging the torment of hundreds of innocent people.

“We know there is a culture of physical and sexual abuse in these centres, we know that there is a mental health crisis so acute that even children have attempted to take their own lives, and we know that numerous people have died due to inadequate medical care.

“This is why we are calling on Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten to come together and make a bipartisan commitment to bring these people to safety immediately, at least until a permanent, safe solution is found.”

On February 1, the White House stated the deal would still go ahead, with “extreme vetting” measures in place and mere hours later the administration backtracked, stating instead that the deal was “still under consideration”.

Earlier this week, it was revealed that there is in fact no minimum number of people to be resettled under the deal, which only compels the US Government to consider applications. A large proportion of the people detained on Manus and Nauru would be excluded under the travel ban, given that Iranian, Iraqi and Somali nationals are amongst those forbidden from entering the US.

“People are at risk of dying while politicians are playing games,” O’Connor said. “It’s time for our leaders to actually take political leadership on this issue, rather than engaging in this shameful race to the bottom.”

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