International responses to Australia's refugee policy

What is the globe saying about the goings on in our offshore processing centres? Source: Own

What does the rest of the world report about Australia's immigration policy?

Earlier this week, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton expressed anger at refugee advocates and pointed the finger at activists for the second self-immolation case in Nauru. It was a blame-shift which offended the nation and our global neighbours. 

Young Somali woman Hodan Yasin set herself on fire while confined in the offshore processing centre in the Pacific Islands. She currently remains in critical condition at a Brisbane hospital. This act was only days after Omid Masoumali, another Nauru refugee, died after a similar act of desperation. 

This self-harm controversy appeared as further evidence that Australia's immigration detention centres are inhumane, and validating the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea's recent ruling of the centres as unconstitutional. 

While Australia is known around the world for our beautiful beaches and our attempt to weasel in on Eurovision, we are increasingly becoming a country widely known for an asylum seekers policy based on intolerable cruelty.



'The government says its policies have restored the integrity of its borders, and helped prevent deaths at sea.

However, critics say opposition to asylum is often racially motivated and is damaging Australia's reputation.

Papua New Guinea's Supreme Court ruled in April that restricting the movement of asylum seekers who have committed no crime was unconstitutional. The country's prime minister has since demanded that Australia shut down the centre.

But Australia is not prepared to accept the 850 men held in the centre and it is not clear where they will be taken. 

They could be housed on Nauru, which says it has additional room. Or they could be taken to the Australian territory of Christmas Island, where there is an existing detention centre'



'A refugee has set herself on fire at an Australian-run detention centre on the Pacific island of Nauru, just days after an Iranian man died in a similar act in protest against his treatment.

The incident sparked debate on social media with the hashtag #Only19, the purported age of the Somali woman, trending in Australia, with users uploading and tweeting photos of when they were 19.

Peter Dutton, immigration minister, acknowledged there had been a rise in cases of self-harm in the camps and accused refugee advocates of giving the asylum seekers false hope that they would one day be settled in Australia.

The harsh conditions and reports of systemic child abuse at the camps have drawn wide criticism inside and outside Australia and have become a major headache for Malcolm Turnbull, Australia's prime minister, during campaigning for July national elections.

The government argues that the approach, which also includes turning back boats, has prevented drownings by stopping people from making the dangerous journey, often from Indonesia.'


'Australia is standing by its government of stopping people to reach Australia by sea or by other methods, and then putting them on these offshore detention centres. Not only Australia, but also the Nauru government has started to shift the blame for these cases of self-immolation onto activists who they claim are trying to push the refugees and migrants to adopt these very desperate measures 

So, you’ve got a government official there, accusing basically, activists who are apparently pushing the refugees and migrants to do things like burn themselves, but then you have an opposition law maker, senator Sarah Hanson Young saying that Australia and its offshore detention policy is in 'free fall' and is calling for an end for this controversial policy.' 

'Critics say the self-immolations reflect the desperation of refugees living under Australia's controversial immigration policy.

Asylum seekers who arrive on Australian shores by boat are told they will never settle in the country, and are transferred to remote processing centers on the pacific islands on Nauru and Papua New Guinea.

Hundreds of people, including children, have lived for months or even years in these detention centers.'


The Atlantic:

'The first boat people to arrive on Australian shores were three young friends and two brothers from Vietnam who’d navigated the seas with a map torn from a school atlas. It was April 1976, and they fled the scars of the Vietnam War and the fall of Saigon on a 65-foot wooden fishing boat. The migrants were called boat people quite simply because that’s how they came to Australia. Over the next five years, 2,054 more would follow.

The country’s policy today toward asylum-seekers who arrive by sea is much different: It places them in offshore-detention facilities on two Pacific Island nations, Nauru and Papua New Guinea (PNG), and processes their asylum claims while keeping them there.  Human-rights advocates and refugee organizations say the country’s policy is cruel. It sets no bail, no time limit to their stay, and on average asylum-seekers will spend a year in camps, they say. 

Australia’s refugee policy has been a test in how a country balances the rights of the world’s dispossessed with its own right to determine who enters.

Prime Minister John Howard’s Liberal Party, which holds a conservative ideology, was trailing in the polls. But on the policy-launch day of his election campaign, Howard made his stance on immigration clear: “We will decide who comes to this country, and the circumstances in which they come.”

The center-left Labor Party won the election, and Kevin Rudd, the new prime minister, kept his campaign promise to do away with the offshore-processing camps. It would not last long. ... with those rising numbers came rising refugee deaths as leaky boats or wooden vessels shattered against the rocks in the choppy waters. 

The Liberals, now in opposition, blamed Rudd’s policy for the increased migration, for the deaths, and for supporting the human-smuggler economy.' 



'The island nation of Nauru is one the world’s smallest countries—but it’s home to a big controversy.

Australia’s ruling Liberal party, led by prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, has taken a harsh stance against accepting refugees arriving by boat. The government pays Nauru much-needed money to host the detention center, which is a whopping 3,328 kilometers from Brisbane. It has made it a policy to send refugees who try to reach Australia by boat to the center (or other centers), and refuses to welcome them to Australia. Many of the asylum seekers have fled violence and hardship in the Middle East, Afghanistan, and South Asia.


Conditions for the refugees on Nauru are difficult—bad enough that the recent self-immolations are just the latest examples of people hurting themselves in protest. In 2013 more than a dozen refugees on Naurustitched their lips together as part of hunger strike over their treatment. Last week four people drank washing powder to protest. Two Iranian women have gone missing. One man attempted suicide despite being the sole parent of an eight-year-old girl.'

Yahoo News:

'Australia blamed refugee advocates on Tuesday for "encouraging" asylum seekers held in remote camps towards acts of self-harm after a woman set herself on fire, while the United Nations renewed its criticism of Australia's harsh immigration policy.

Under Australia's hardline immigration policy, asylum seekers intercepted trying to reach Australia after paying people smugglers are sent for processing to camps on Nauru, which holds about 500 people, and on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea. They are told they will never be settled in Australia.

The harsh conditions and reports of systemic child abuse at the camps have drawn wide criticism inside and outside Australia and have become a major headache for Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull during campaigning for likely July elections.'


Foreign Policy:

Mark Issacs reports,

'On April 26, the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea handed down a long-awaited verdict in a case concerning the legality of Australia’s immigration detention center on Manus Island. ... Peter O’Neill, the prime minister of Papua New Guinea,announced that the Manus Island detention center would be closed, and that his government would ask Australia “to make alternative arrangements for the asylum seekers currently held at the regional processing center."

Canberra was unmoved. On the day of the court ruling, Australia’s immigration minister, Peter Dutton, emphasized that his government would not accept refugees from Manus, since it “was not a party to the legal proceedings” in Papua New Guinea.

In August 2012, then-Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s Labor government introduced the deterrence system that is currently in place, in response to an unprecedented spike in boat arrivals. Since 2000, there have been 1,976 recorded deaths of people trying to come to Australia by boat.

In 1992, Prime Minister Paul Keating instituted mandatory detention without judicial review of asylum seekers arriving by boat, paving the way for John Howard’s harsh border policies later in the decade.

I worked in the detention center on Nauru as an employee of the Salvation Army from September 2012 to June 2013.

I witnessed the brutal toll of detention on Nauru. Health services are under-resourced, inevitably leading to people being sent to Australia for expert treatment, usually psychiatric care. I saw a man slash himself with a broken light bulb, and witnessed another barking like a dog during a psychotic episode. I comforted men who had attempted suicide. Across the detention network, there’s a report of a sexual assault every 13 days.

Australia’s treatment of those seeking asylum has been repeatedly criticized by the U.N. Human Rights Council; Canberra was even found to be inviolation of an international anti-torture convention.


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