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UNHCR damns Australia for conditions on Manus island

Manus Island detention centre (prison) is now being likened to Guantanamo Bay illegal detention centre. While travelling abroad I can barely look people in the eye anymore without feeling shame about Australia’s gross human rights abuses of refugees. Come on Abbott and Morrison, it’s time to admit your mistakes and bring asylum seekers to Australia, process them quickly and welcome refugees with open arms. After reading the damning report by Amnesty International I realised that I hadn’t yet commented on the equally damning report from UNHCR. I regularly sign petitions on Amnesty International’s site and occasionally think somewhat smugly that thank goodness such things don’t happen in Australia, but actually they do!

It’s not appropriate for families and children to be transferred to [Manus Island] Papua New Guinea …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 Manus Island, Papua New Guinea from 23 to 25 October 2013.

Most of the latrines had no soap when we [Amnesty International] inspected them… there are too few showers and toilets to accommodate the number of men in the facility resulting in… unhygienic conditions.

Requests by medical staff for basic measures that would improve health and sanitation have received no response. For example, staff have asked that detainees have greater opportunities for mental stimulation… a sufficient supply of drinking water for those in Oscar compound, shoes for all detainees and soap in the latrines.

Amnesty International’s Claire Mallinson said:

When we talked to the medical staff there, they estimated that over 30 per cent of the detainees there now have mental health problems

The UNHCR report found that the harsh physical conditions of the detention centre on Manus Island:

a) 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.

  • PNG lacks a legal framework for determining refugee status;
  • No refugee claim has been processed since the centre opened in November 2012 (despite Australia spending about $1 billion on offshore detention);
  • All asylum seekers are imprisoned for an indefinite time period without being individually assessed;
  • True refugees may accept being returned to their country of origin just to escape being imprisoned under harsh conditions on Manus Island;
  • At least two unaccompanied children are being imprisoned on Manus Island with 1100 men; and
  • Sleeping areas are cramped, there’s a lack of privacy and all asylum seekers are locked into the facility.

Greens immigration spokeswoman Senator Sarah Hanson-Young says the conditions on Manus Island amount to intentional cruelty:

It seems as though the conditions are so bad that perhaps maybe they’re meant to be deliberately bad, in order to push people to breaking point. Pushing them to a point of self-destruction, self-harm, attempted suicide, and even … people saying they would have preferred to have died at sea rather than to have been sent to Manus Island.


One comment on “UNHCR damns Australia for conditions on Manus island

  1. Pingback: Refugee statistics | strivetoengage

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