Syria Genocide War Crimes

Monday, December 29, 2008

Australia has refugee jails

This is from the Safecom.org "Terror Australia" page:


The conservative government of John Howard came and went - by the end of 2007. The new Rudd government seems more human and we can talk to them - but even while the Baxter detention is now closed, and the Nauru detention centre and the "Pacific Solution" has come to an end, Australia still has refugee jails.

Australia has a policy of mandatory detention for all refugees and asylum seekers who arrive by boat on its shores.

This represents a radical departure from any other country that signs the United Nations Conventions - The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

Mandatory detention of asylum seekers places Australia at a great risk of becoming a nation which commits human rights abuses of the first order.

Not only places in Australia are at a risk of that, it also has already been evidently shown to be so.

Justice Marcus R. Einfeld

"Mandatory sentencing - which I prefer to call compulsory jailing - is a nasty insidious creation of our generation that not even the convict settlement introduced. What is more - compulsory jailing legislation expressly abandons the internationally agreed principle of imprisonment as a sanction of last resort, with priority given to other interests."

"We are now the only developed country in the world which practises indiscriminate indeterminate incommunicado detention of asylum seekers. Alone of all countries in the world, including Canada, the United States and the nations of Europe and Scandinavia, we have indiscriminately detained all of them - the elderly, the children, the sick and the pregnant - at a cost by the way of around $50,000 per person per year...."

May 2001 - The Hon Justice Marcus Einfeld (AO, QC, PhD) in a speech at the Jessie Street Trust Annual Gathering. Parliament House NSW

Transcript available at ABC Radio National Background Briefing (2 June 2001)

Former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser

"It would seem clear that our approach to the problem is indeed in breach of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Conventions. It would seem to be in breach of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights. This view is supported by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. It is also in breach of the Convention of Rights of the child. Current practice runs counter to UNHCR guidelines on detention. Australia is seriously out of step in these matters.

"Recently, when 1,000 Kurdish refugees were beached on the southern French coast, we saw a French Minister moving to the place to see that the refugees were properly treated. It is plain she thought they had been through a considerable ordeal. A number had already been taken to hospital for treatment. The first task was to make sure that anyone who needed medical care, received that care and then they could talk about longer-term solutions. It was a humane and sympathetic approach. The refugees were treated with dignity and esteem.

"On Australia's record of recent times, our reaction would have been very different. What we do damages Australia's name as a compassionate and humane country."

Former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser: The Inaugural Harmony Day Oration (excerpts)

Wednesday 21 March 2001: Murdoch University Perth; Murdoch University and the Office of Citizenship and Multicultural Interests.

Dr Zachary Steel, Clinical Psychologist
"....the truth of the matter is that 85% of these people will become Australian citizens, or at least be released into the community on temporary protection visas.

And I believe that we're taking survivors of some of the most ruthless political regimes and destroying what little resilience they have left.

And we're really breaking people and making it extremely difficult for them to make an ongoing productive contribution to Australian society.

And I suspect that this is going to place a large burden on the health system, as people get released from detention.

And there's already substantial evidence to support that in services being provided to some of these people after release.

Dr Zachary Steel, co-author of Silove D & Steel Z.(1988), The Mental Health of and Well-Being of On-Shore Asylum Seekers in Australia.. Psychiatry Research and Teaching Unit, University of NSW.

Zachary Steel, Clinical Psychologist
University of NSW, quoted from ABC "Asylum Seekers in Detention", Winner of the 2001 Walkley Award for Best Radio Feature Documentary or Broadcast Special.

Public Health Association of Australia

Two articles from the Draft Policy on Mandatory detention of Asylum Seekers:

Australia's treatment of asylum seekers violates international human rights standards. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) prohibit arbitrary detention particularly of children.

The Refugee Council of Australia reported that as of 1 June 2001, there were 2,857 adults and 520 children, of whom 39 were unaccompanied minors, in Detention Centres. 7 Detention Centres are inappropriate places for children, however, family units may not want to be separated. Detainees may be held in poor conditions and for long periods of time, often up to eighteen months.

(Update April 2008: resource no longer online)

UN High Commissioner of Refugees

The detention of refugees and asylum seekers is an exceptional measure and should only be applied in the individual case, where it has been determined by the appropriate authority to be necessary in light of the circumstances of the case and on the basis of criteria established by law in line with international refugee and human rights law. As such, it should not be applied unlawfully and arbitrarily and only where it is necessary for the reasons outlined in ExCom Conclusion no. 44, in particular for the protection of national security and public order (e.g. risk of absconding). National law and practice should take full account of the international obligations accepted by States, including through regional and universal human rights treaties.

Initial periods of administrative detention for the purposes of identifying refugees and asylum seekers and of establishing the elements for their claim to asylum should be minimised. In particular, detention should not be extended for the purposes of punishment, or maintained where asylum procedures are protracted.

There is a qualitative difference between detention and other restrictions on freedom of movement. Many States have been able to manage their asylum systems and their immigration programmes without recourse to physical restraint. Before resorting to detention, alternatives should always be considered in the individual case. Such alternatives include reporting and residency requirements, bonds, community supervision, or open centres. These may be explored with the involvement of civil society.

Geneva Expert Round Table 8-9 Nov 2001, Summary Conclusions on Article 31 of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. Document available from our Documentation page.

Inhumanity of Australia's treatment of asylum seekers

In June 2001 an all party Federal Parliament Human Rights Committee found conditions in some detention centres are appalling, with standards often below those experienced in Australian jails.

After examining much evidence and personally visiting the detention centres and meeting detainees, the committee made several recommendations including the following:

A 14-week limit on detentions provided that asylum seekers meet security clearances.

Centres to have facilities to keep families together.

That independent observers be appointed to each centre to hear complaints from detainees. (The Age, 19 June 2001)

This Report reinforced many of the findings of an earlier report by the Commonwealth Ombudsman. The Ombudsman noted that detained asylum seekers have been subject to inappropriate use of force and have had their rooms trashed by guards for no apparent reason. The Ombudsman went on to say that detainees in Australia have fewer rights than jail inmates. (The Age, 7 March 2001)

Source: Churches call for Major reforms in Australia's Treatment of Asylum Seekers. National Council of Churches in Australia. Document available from our Documentation page.

Please go to the original page - the link is in the title of this web posting - for many more pages of resources regarding Australian detention facilities.