In article 31 of the Refugee Convention, Asylum Seekers are stated to have a right to enter a country in seek of Asylum. Approximately 35-50 people are granted refugee status in Australia, all of which are from offshore detention centres. These are Australia’s offshore detention centres. The first is a well-known centre of Australia, Christmas Island detention centre. While it is offshore, it’s still a part of Australia, just a long way away. But in 2012, two new centres were opened in completely different countries: Manus Island and Nauru.
Let us first consider the tiny island of Nauru. This island is only six kilometres long and four kilometres wide, a total of 24km2. It’s also one of the poorest nations in the world. But the Australian government has decided that this is a good place to process some o four many asylum seekers. When it was first opened, 400 asylum seekers were housed in unstable tents for five months. Now there are more permanent buildings, but people aren’t much happier about being there.
Protests are common within the detention centres in Nauru and staff say the main reason is because detainees aren’t told how long they’ll have to stay. They also aren’t told why they were sent here, while their friends may have been sent to a detention centre on Australian soil or in another country entirely. Children are now developing mental illnesses and are not being treated for it, women are being pillaged, violated and raped by both inmates and the guards of the centres and the government is not planning to do anything about the atrocities of it.
According to ABC news online, ‘Doctors treating asylum seekers on Christmas Island have detailed disturbing allegations that some detainees are suffering life-threatening medical conditions as a result of detention, and children are showing serious developmental and mental health problems. ’ Off shore processing of Asylum Seekers was estimated to cost 2 billion dollars for a 500-bedroom facility in Nauru where as it costs only 20% of that to replicate the same thing in Australia in the on shore detention centres. The government recognises this but refuses to allow the asylum seekers their right to protection regardless of this statistic.
Australia’s attitude towards asylum seekers ‘should not be considered a model by any country’, the UN says in the hope that the government will change their merciless ways. However, Tony Abbott claims that Australia is ‘sick of being lectured by the UN’. It is embarrassing to most Australians to be characterised in such a way but the government are not planning to change this anytime soon. West of here is Manus Island, a part of Papua New Guinea. It’s infested with mosquitoes, which is why they have to fumigate it regularly, putting the asylum seeker’s health at risk.
The accommodation there is pretty basic also. There’s no privacy and often no power, or running water. But that’s not the worst thing the camp is lacking. Medical supplies are desperately short. If people in the centre fall ill, they are in a lot of trouble medically. (eg boy who broke his arm on the island) The Australian Government wish to process these asylum seekers offshore so that they do not drown in Australian waters when their risky boats crash on the ocean, as we saw a few years ago with the Christmas Island tragedy.
However, what so many people are failing to recognise is that even though they are not drowning here, they are drowning in general. It is not the water, but the sheer luck and stability of the boat and we are ignoring that they are still drowning and depriving them of help. To help better our understanding of asylum seekers, we must first define the terms ‘refugee’ and ‘asylum seeker’. Refugee: a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster
Asylum Seeker: a person who has left their home country as a political refugee and is seeking asylum in another We can see how the two are linked, how Asylum Seekers are refugees. So, if they were desperate enough to leave their birth/home country on a rickety boat, spending the majority of to all of their much-needed money to reach Australia with no guarantee of assistance from us, why would they risk it? Amnesty International is a world-renowned non-government organisation (NGO) that is one of many supporting the abolition of the issue.
They are calling for the Australian Government to: •End offshore processing and instead process all refugee claims made in Australia on the Australian mainland •End indefinite mandatory detention and instead place asylum seekers in the community once initial checks are completed •Resolve the legal limbo and indefinite detention resulting from adverse ASIO assessments •Ensure that Australia’s Refugee Status Determination system is fair and robust •Commit adequate resources towards developing a regional approach to refugees and asylum seekers.