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UNHCR damns Australia for imprisoning asylum-seeker children on Nauru

It’s not appropriate for families and children to be transferred to Nauru or [Manus Island] Papua New Guinea and the suggestions and proposals for transferring unaccompanied children for us is even more deeply concerning.

Unaccompanied children are already very vulnerable and to place them in situations of uncertainty and tough physical conditions… could be very damaging to their health and well-being.

said the UNHCR spokesperson Richard Towle about the reports that UNHCR released on 27th November after a monitoring visit to the Republic of Nauru from 7 to 9 October 2013.

During the UNHCR visit Nauru inspectors met some of the 95 child detainees, who drew pictures highlighting their distress. The inspectors found children were living in hot, humid, cramped conditions with little privacy, were not going to school and their parents held deep concerns for their mental health.

The UNHCR report that:

  • only one claim for refugee status has been processed since September 2012 when Australia started transferring asylum seekers to Nauru;
  • The processing centre does not comply with international standards, specifically:

a) it constitutes arbitrary and mandatory detention under international law;
b) doesn’t provide a fair, efficient and expeditious system for assessing refugee claims;
c) doesn’t provide safe and humane conditions of treatment in detention; and
d) doesn’t provide for adequate and timely solutions for refugees.

  • no child should be transferred to Nauru due to the harsh and unsuitable environment and lack of adequate educational and recreational facilities;
  • families are living together in marquees separated only by vinyl partitions, but families need to live with more separation and privacy from others;
  • all pregnant asylum-seekers should be removed from Nauru, until adequate medical facilities and accommodation are available;
  • an independent national oversight body is needed to monitor compliance with human rights obligations;
  • Nauru is unlikely to provide long term and sustainable solutions for refugees, therefore, the Government of Australia should assume responsibility for such refugees in Australia;
  • pre-transfer assessments that are conducted in Australia within 48 hours do not adequately assess the individual needs of asylum-seekers, including children, nor consider whether the facilities and services are appropriate or whether transfer should occur at all.

Richard Towle of UNHCR went on to say:

People are being held in what we found to be mandatory, arbitrary detention settings.

The toughness of the physical conditions is superimposed on a mandatory detention environment and that compounds people’s uncertainty.

If not addressed very carefully, we could see a fairly rapid degradation of psycho-social and physical health if people don’t have a fairly early determination of their fate and future.

The UNHCR’s director of international protection, Volker Turk, said:

…UNHCR has observed … a sharp deterioration, during the course of the year, in the overall quality of protection and support available to asylum seekers and refugees who come to Australia by boat…when policies and practices are based primarily on deterrence, they can have harmful and, at times, punishing consequences for people affected, particularly families and children.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison’s response to the criticisms of UNHCR is only to comment on the number of asylum seekers that have been processed and to ignore the appalling living conditions, presence of unaccompanied children in detention, and other concerns of UNHCR:

Processing is now underway again, and we are looking to further progress in the months ahead.

Currently Nauru is party to:

  • 1951 Refugee Convention;
  • 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child;
  • 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women;
  • 1989 Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (and its Optional Protocol).

Nauru has signed but not ratified:

  • 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Nauru is not a party to:

  • 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons; or
  • 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness

One comment on “UNHCR damns Australia for imprisoning asylum-seeker children on Nauru

  1. Pingback: Refugee statistics | strivetoengage

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This entry was posted on December 17, 2013 by in Giving and tagged , , , , , .
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