Immigration

Amnesty report says asylum policy inhumane and abusive

A Manus Island detainee's injuries after reportedly being bashed by authorities. Source: AAP

SBS World News Radio: Amnesty International has labelled Australia's offshore detention policy on asylum seekers "inhumane" and "abusive" in calling for its abolishment for the second straight year.

Amnesty International has heavily criticised Australia's offshore detention policy on asylum seekers in a report released today analysing human-rights abuses in almost 160 countries.

In the report, Amnesty says Australia continues to operate what it calls "its abusive offshore immigration processing regime" on Nauru and Papua New Guinea's Manus Island.

The report also highlights what it calls the Government's "refusal" to honour an offer with New Zealand to annually resettle 150 refugees from Nauru and Manus Island.

Amnesty's national director for Australia, Claire Mallinson, says Australia is being hypocritical in its asylum policies.

"Australia needs to step up. It was fantastic that Australia said it would take 12,000 Syrians, and 10,000 are now here and happily settled. But we've still got Syrians locked up on Manus Island. So, we're very inconsistent."

Ms Mallinson says Australia must show greater commitment to human rights if it is to succeed in its bid to be on the United Nations Human Rights Council this year.

Refugee Council of Australia spokesman Tim O'Connor says he is alarmed at how the Australian government is treating people seeking asylum.

"It's an enormous concern to Australia. It's costing taxpayers billions of dollars, and it's destroying the futures of many innocent people."

Amnesty's report released in 2016 labelled the practice of offshore processing "shameful" and "one of the worst in the world."

Mr O'Connor says the continuing criticism highlights a lack of movement on the issue at the political level.

"Although there's not much shift at the political level at this point, what we see is this international spotlight that's been shone on Australia, and it shows Australia in a very bad light."

The report also accuses Australia's justice system of continuing to fail Indigenous people, particularly children, with high rates of incarceration, reports of abuse and deaths in custody.

It says Indigenous children are 24 times more likely to be detained than non-Indigenous children.

Amnesty's Claire Mallinson says it is an issue which should shock all of Australia.

"And one of the things that we identified is that, despite the fact that, under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the minimum age to lock up kids is 12, here in Australia, we're locking up 10 and 11-year-olds. And the vast majority of those, over 80 per cent, are Indigenous."

Ms Mallinson says Amnesty is calling on the Australian government and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to make the issue a priority.

The report refers to last year's leaked footage that exposed abuse and other ill-treatment of children in detention in the Northern Territory.

"And we are calling on the government that, when the royal commission into the horrors that we saw at Don Dale is finally released in August, that that will be the springboard to a national plan."

Internationally, the Amnesty report describes 2016 as a year where governments and armed groups brought what it calls "unrelenting misery and fear" to innocent people.

It cites large parts of Syria's most populous city, Aleppo, being pounded to dust by airstrikes and street battles, as well as what it calls the continuing cruel onslaught against civilians in Yemen.

The report also highlights the plight of the Rohingya people in Myanmar, as well as mass unlawful killings in South Sudan.

And Amnesty has chastised United Nations member states over what it calls their failure at September's summit for refugees and migrants.

 

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