Why the human rights violations in Australia’s offshore detention centers are appalling

Australia’s blindness Illustration: Liu Rui / GT

“China has launched another furious attack on Australia’s human rights record,” the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reported after Australia’s third Universal Periodic Review at the 47th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

In fact, Russia, Nepal, Syria, the Marshall Islands and the United Nations Refugee Agency have also expressed deep concern over human rights violations in Australia, urging Canberra to take practical steps to protect and improve human rights. International attention is focused on Australia’s notorious offshore detention centers.

Recently, the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Papua New Guinea (PNG) and the Solomon Islands sent an open letter to the Australian Parliament, condemning the humanitarian crisis caused by Australia’s policy of offshore detention of refugees. He called on Canberra to close offshore detention centers on Manus Island and Nauru and properly settle the refugees.

Canberra was called on to abandon colonialism and respect the sovereignty, independence and rule of law of Pacific island countries. The religious groups mentioned above have great influence in the Pacific Island countries, and their sharp criticism of Australia has resonated strongly. How many bad deeds have been committed in these detention centers? Why is Australia’s immigration policy so criticized?

The offshore detention policy, first introduced in 2012, requires all refugees, asylum seekers and illegal immigrants who have been smuggled into Australia by boat to be sent to offshore refugee camps, located on the island. de Manus, PNG, or the island nation of Nauru, for compulsory central detention. The refugees live there in difficult conditions, waiting indefinitely for entry approval. According to the latest figures released by the Refugee Council of Australia in July, offshore refugee camps have so far hosted 4,183 people, less than 30% of whom have been allowed to enter Australia. The remaining 3,000 people were sent to other countries, forcibly repatriated to their countries of origin, or even detained and tortured.

The “Nauru Documents”, which accidentally leaked in 2016, revealed the grim truth of the offshore refugee camps. This over 8,000-page report uncovered the shocking cases of beatings, self-harm, sexual assault, child abuse and inhumane living conditions suffered by refugees. This sparked a strong international reaction, including from the medical communities. These detention camps have been denounced as Nazi-style “concentration camps”. Food and drinking water supplies are severely inadequate. Safety is not guaranteed. Housing, medical care and prevention of epidemics are extremely poor. Cell phones and other communication devices are confiscated.

The detainees have suffered long-standing physical and psychological abuse. Many died abnormally. According to a survey by the United Nations Refugee Agency, more than 80 percent of refugees suffered from mental illnesses, such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Australian policy has been repeatedly criticized by international organizations and other countries. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, has criticized Australia’s offshore detention centers as a “violation of human rights”, and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. man has repeatedly called on the Australian government to fulfill its international human rights obligations and to guarantee the rights of refugees to seek and be granted asylum. The International Criminal Court has ruled that what the Australian government has done to refugees is “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” and is illegal under international law. The PNG Supreme Court ruled that the detention centers seriously violated the PNG constitution and called for their closure. However, the decision was rejected by the Australian government. Senior health officials in Nauru have expressed concerns about the centers, calling them a “national disgrace”, but Australia continues to do what it wants.

Behind Australia’s persistent contempt for criticism lurks the typical “human rights preacher” mentality. Australia and other Western countries have a long history of recklessly interfering in the internal affairs of other countries and openly lobbying under the guise of human rights. But when developing countries worry about their human rights issues, they are either selectively ignored or poorly explained.

The serious human rights issues exposed by Australia’s offshore detention centers are just the tip of the iceberg. Under the hypocritical mask of “preacher of human rights” hide undiscovered crimes and misdeeds. We urge Australia and its Western allies to think seriously about what they have done and take practical steps to address their own human rights concerns. For many years, these Western countries have wielded human rights as a stick to suppress developing countries while silencing critics of their own human rights issues. Justice is justice. Gone are the days when Western countries could rest comfortably on their evil deeds.

The author is a current affairs commentator. [email protected]

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