Australia refugee camp 'appalling': Amnesty

2012-11-23 10:02

Sydney - The camp set up by Australia to house asylum-seekers on the Pacific island of Nauru was "appalling" and likely in breach of its obligations to refugees, rights group Amnesty said on Friday.

Australia began sending asylum-seekers to Nauru in September as part of a new policy of processing boatpeople offshore to deter others from making the risky sea journey Down Under which has claimed hundreds of lives.

The government says all refugees are treated humanely but Amnesty Australia's Graham Thom, who visited Nauru this week, said the 386 men held on the island were in "extremely harsh" conditions.

He said they slept in tents crowded with around 15 other men which leaked when it rained.

"I think it is fair to say that Australia is again in serious breach of its international obligations," Thom said as Amnesty released a report on Friday into the Nauru camp.

"These are appalling conditions and they are completely unacceptable for vulnerable people, many of who have suffered torture and trauma."

Hunger strike

Amnesty, which wants Canberra to close the Nauru centre, described the situation on the rocky island as a toxic mix of uncertainty, unlawful detention and inhumane conditions.

It said the island camp failed to give the men appropriate accommodation, freedom of movement, or any sort of process to address their claims for asylum, and could result in serious mental trauma or even death.

"What we've see with this sort of detention in the past is that it does break people and people ultimately do kill themselves or seriously hurt themselves," Thom added, saying the mental anguish it caused could last years.

Several asylum-seekers are on hunger strike, with Thom saying one man had shed 19kg after refusing food for more than 40 days.

"And he says, 'I just can't be here. I prefer death than being here because this is so horrible'," Thom said.

Others claim to have been tortured and detained in their home countries, and being held on Nauru was reopening the trauma.

Nowhere to go

"We met a couple of men who were blinded by shrapnel and one of the men still has shrapnel in his face. He says when it gets really hot, the pain is just unbearable," Thom said.

Thom added that frustrations were building among the asylum-seekers due to a lack of sleep and privacy and the seeming injustice that they were being processed on Nauru while others were being dealt with in Australia.

He added that during the day there was nowhere for the men to go, with the tents too hot to be occupied until late when it often rained, resulting in water lapping into them and dripping onto bedding.

"They just can't get away from being watched," he said of the detainees, about half of whom are from Sri Lanka, with others from Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.

  • Alice - 2012-11-23 10:31

    If they are not happy living like squashed sardines in a can, then they must go back to their countries. After working with Asylum seekers in a foreign country you'd know that 90% of their claims are absolute lies. Majority are just economic parasites.

      koo.doyle - 2012-11-23 10:40

      On what do you base this 'fact' Alice? Do you really think it's acceptable for people to live in these conditions? Do you think if going back to their countries was an option, anyone would choose to live like that? Disgusting.

      Alice - 2012-11-23 10:51

      Yeah, it is not acceptable for any human being to live in appalling conditions. Refugees bring strain in any country, it will now put pressure to an Aussie gov to put aside a budget from taxpayers to build better camps for them. Germany is one the only country I know that has best strategies in the world for Asylum seekers. That's why many of them avoid going there but rather opt for UK/ Ireland because of the soft policies.

      Desilusionada - 2012-11-23 11:16

      Reading the refugee requirements set by countries such as in Europe or Canada, it is clear the to get refugee status is extremely difficult as it appears as if a fair amount of fraud is attached to many of these cases. The general position is that the refugee seeker has the onus on him/her to prove just cause. It is probably expected that any country would, in the interest of, and the obligation they have towards their citizens, be very careful before granting refugee status. The financial burden on any country accepting a refugee AND to ensure that the refugee is able to meet the general standard of living, is very high. Xenophobia and compromising local labour markets are just 2 issues that needs to be addressed. The matter of repatriation after whatever crisis has been resolved is a thorny issue as well. The refugee's home country situation has to be evaluated constantly and the refugee policy adjusted as required. The Israel and so-called "black" deportation saga is an example. One would thus expect that any country would not want to send a message of a free Utopia with regards to refugees. The UK is currently experiencing severe pressure form "economic parasites" and their activities. In a final conclusion, one probably has to ask what the price is one is prepared to pay for freedom. And how much worse can things be, when compared to a home country which compels one to request refugee status. All media reports require further investigation. Amnesty also.....

      K9LAKHAN - 2012-11-23 12:56

      Stop the Racism Australia - the world is watching you .Angrily. "French women abused on melborne bus for singing in a different language..." May your land flood.

  • henry.justice.372 - 2012-11-23 10:49

    Why would these mostly muslims leave their homelands to go live in "the 2nd most racist nation in the world after Israel." Send them back to asia or feed them to the sharks or let them commit suicide.Who cares about them.

      Tony-Lapson - 2012-11-23 11:04

      At first I was a bit annoyed by what you said, but I think it is quite true. Places like Australia, America, UK and South africa have/had very easygoing policies as far as refugees are concerned. If you were hellbent on converting the world into a specific religious culture, there is no better way to do it other than send in masses of polygamists into first world western countries

      Desilusionada - 2012-11-23 12:34

      That is actually quite right. In Brisbane, some refugees from Africa and Oriental extract are of "extreme" Muslim conservatism. I say extreme as I have seen in the South Bank pool some young girls swimming in clothing that covers them from head to toe. Only eyes sticking out. In some parts of Sydney "honour killings" are still sanctioned by the local community. (Although the Police have a different view about that). They have had all kinds of protest actions for introduction of the Shari'a law, in preference to the Australian law. Australia prides itself on being secular, so it is a good question that begs an answer. Why indeed......

      tom.guy.37669528 - 2012-11-23 13:38

      Shame your mommy never loved you did she?

  • angela.nair.3 - 2012-11-23 14:13

    Australia is right! Its crap that people can invade your country and demand refugee status - like in our country! There should be stricter border control - and why are these people running away from their country? And then when they settle in a new country they dont appreciate it - they become terrorists and criminals - not all - but more than less!! People should stay in their own countries and try to change their circumstances.... And they dont care how they live - its probably better than where they came from! Sorry but I have no sympathy for them...

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