Sydney, October 18, 2016: Australia has rejected allegations by human rights campaigners that conditions on a small South Pacific Island where migrants are kept “amount to torture.” Amnesty International’s report claims that many asylum seekers held at the Australian-run camp on Nauru have attempted suicide to escape indefinite detention.
Amnesty International said the incarceration of asylum seekers on the tiny South Pacific Island of Nauru was a “systematic regime of neglect and cruelty.”
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It’s report – ‘Island of Despair’ – also accuses Australia of failing to provide a safe environment for young migrants that prevents many from attending school and amounts to a serious violation of children’s rights.
More than 750 former detainees, including large numbers from Iran and Afghanistan who have been granted refugee status, are now living in the Nauruan community alongside 10,000 islanders.
Despite having their claims for asylum approved, Amnesty alleges the refugees continue to endure poor conditions with little access to medical care.
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Anna Neistat, who wrote the Amnesty International report, says conditions on Nauru are intolerable.
“I do not think I have seen such levels of mental distress. There is no reason for this suffering. They are not in a war zone. They have fled the kind of war zones that we are talking about and now they are stuck there with no future and subjected to this daily humiliation and abuse,” said Neistat.
Amnesty alleges the mistreatment amounts to torture – a claim strongly denied by Australian authorities.
At a parliamentary committee hearing in Canberra, the head of Australia’s Immigration Department, Mike Pezzullo, denied Amnesty’s claims.
“I do not accept that characterization. It does not surprise me, senator, because I have seen Amnesty International reports that say similar things. I refute categorically both on behalf of my own department and by way of explaining government policy in this regard. It is not the Australian government’s position nor the position of this department that we flout any laws, international or otherwise,” said Pezzullo.
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Under Australia’s strict immigration policy, asylum seekers intercepted trying to reach the country by sea are sent for processing at camps in Nauru or to Manus Island in Papua New Guinea and are not eligible for resettlement in Australia. The government in Canberra insists the policy is a deterrent that saves lives by stopping asylum seekers from making the hazardous sea crossing from places such as Indonesia.
Critics, however, argue the policy is inhumane and demonises those fleeing war and persecution. Earlier this year, judges in Papua New Guinea ruled the facility on Manus Island to be unconstitutional and it is expected to close in the coming months.(VOA)