Six reasons to bring refugees here now

July 15, 2017
Adelaide refugee protest Palm Sunday 2017. Photo: Tess Purling and Dylan Binns

Countless abuses have occurred in the four years since then-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s announcement in 2013 that no asylum seeker who arrived by boat will ever be resettled in Australia. Here are six key reasons to join the calls to evacuate all those detained on Manus Island and Nauru now and bring them to Australia.

1. Systemic child abuse

The Australian Human Rights Commission found 95% of children in Nauru are at risk of post-traumatic stress disorder. Four babies, who were part of the protests in Nauru, were born in detention and have never experienced one day of freedom.

The Nauru Files showed systemic abuse of children occurred in the detention centres, communities and local schools in Nauru, including from teachers — with at least one reported assault on a refugee child at school every 13 days.

2. Sexual assault

There are numerous accounts of women suffering sexual assault in detention centres and where they have been resettled in third party countries.

Guards have threatened to rape women, stood drunkenly around women's toilets at night and Australian guards are believed to have traded marijuana for sexual favours.

No one has been successfully prosecuted for sexually assaulting an asylum seeker on Nauru. Abortions are also illegal in Nauru and the only way for women to get an abortion is to be transferred to Australia, which is dependent on the immigration minister’s discretion.

3. Abusive guards

There have been numerous reports of guards and detention centre staff abusing people in detention. The 2000 incident reports in The Guardian’s Nauru Files are littered with stories of guards throwing people to the ground, hitting them in the head and laughing at suicide attempts. The most extreme case was Reza Berati, who was beaten to death by guards.

4. Medical neglect

Healthy young asylum seekers have died as a result of the conditions they are forced to endure, including living in unhygienic mouldy tents in tropical conditions with dozens of other people and a lack of access to clean water and fresh food.

There has been deliberate medical neglect by private contractor International Health and Medical Services and the department of immigration often denies or delays  access to adequate medical treatment. People have reported waiting several months to see a doctor and in some case being turned away dozens of times.

One man, Hamid Khazaei, died from a simple cut to his foot that became infected when proper medical treatment was delayed.

5. Forcing people to deportation, resettlement or suicide

Many people, after living in detention for years without hope of freedom, are being pushed towards suicide or the thought that they have no choice but to accept deportation — even when they know they are going back to danger. Some hope to give their families the bribe Australia offers people who accept deportation to before they are taken into captivity by the state they fled from.

Documents revealed by The Guardian in May show a campaign by the immigration department to make the conditions in Manus Island detention centre so inhospitable that people accept deportation or resettlement in PNG. This included using physical force to break up communities that had formed, making people live in different compounds and taking away amenities.

It also shows the immigration department was fully aware that their plan could lead to an “extremely violent” attack on the centre — which happened on Good Friday with drunken navy personell firing live ammunition into the centre.

6. Resettling people in PNG and Nauru is dangerous

Nauru and Manus Island are small islands where many people live by what they can grow and catch. Their medical services — especially psychological care, which many refugees desperately need — are limited. They do not have the capacity to resettle refugees.

By pursuing this plan, the Australian government is fuelling conflict between refugees and locals. This has already led to violence towards refugees, including sexual assault, beatings and robbery.

If they do find work, they are often forced to work in worse conditions and for less money than locals.

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