Government testimony to the UN Committee Against Torture is misleading and an attempt to circumvent international law.
“At a time when we are hosting the G20 and painting ourselves as a major international player on the world stage, behind the scenes, we are busily abrogating our international responsibilities to asylum seekers,” Director of Advocacy Serina McDuff said today.
“Our Government has absolved itself of responsibility for the management of Australia’s substandard offshore detention centres – which are costing taxpayers over $3 billion a year to run. Before the UN Committee, Government officials claimed that conditions in offshore centres were a matter for the countries in which they were established.
“This is patently false. Our Government set up, pays for and manages these centres.
“Australian officials also told the Committee that medical care in detention centres is comparable to that received in Australia.
“Again, this is completely untrue. There is significant evidence that health and safety on Nauru and Manus Island is sub-standard and negligent. That evidence has come from first-hand accounts by UNHCR, doctors working on the island and the government’s own advisory sub-committee overseeing physical and mental health on Nauru.”
The Australian officials stated that ‘all but a few’ children will be released from detention within a few months.
“This is a hollow commitment that should be taken with a grain of salt,” Ms McDuff said.
“The Minister has had over 12 months to release children from detention – this should happen without delay, given the well-documented physical and mental suffering they are enduring in detention.
“The Minister also needs to provide an assurance that children and their families will be settled in Australia, not on Nauru.
“Children released into the community on Nauru have been subjected to violent attacks as hostility towards refugees settled on the tiny island grows. The Government has previously stated that it bears no responsibility for this situation. As well as being negligent, it is further evidence that the Government’s offshore resettlement program is a failure.
“The Government must take urgent steps to shut down its sub-human offshore detention facilities and begin to process people’s applications for protection, as it is obliged to do under Australian law.
“Australia is quickly developing a reputation for cruel, inhumane treatment of those most in need of support and protection.
“It is a terrible irony that the Government is simultaneously seeking a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, as it commits gross human rights violations against asylum seekers and refugees.”
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