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Asylum seekers stiffed by election year spin

  • 11 February 2013

The rushed and ad hoc nature of arrangements for asylum seekers in Nauru and PNG reveal an eye on election dates rather than respect for human dignity and an adherence to international human rights laws.

While 5000 died in Syria last month, and tens of thousands of Syrians fled to Turkey and other neighbouring countries, Australian politics is dominated by the comparatively small number of arrivals on our coastline of people fleeing countries usually identified as producing large numbers of refugees.

UNHCR released the second of its reports into the processing centres last week. The first on Nauru was critical of conditions, delays and uncertainty for asylum seekers. The latest report on Manus Island is also highly critical.

Last august, the expert panel on asylum seekers report outlined a number of criteria that it said were required if Nauru and Manus Island were to be reopened. These included:

treatment consistent with human rights standards (including no arbitrary detention); appropriate accommodation; appropriate physical and mental health services; access to educational and vocational training programs; application assistance during the preparation of asylum claims; an appeal mechanism against negative decisions on asylum applications that would enable merits review by more senior officials and NGO representatives with specific expertise; monitoring of care and protection arrangements by a representative group drawn from government and civil society in Australia and Nauru; and case management assistance for individual applicants being processed in Nauru.

UNHCR notes that none of these has been met. Asylum seekers are languishing in inappropriate accommodation, without any information about what will happen with their cases. No law let alone legal process exists in either Nauru or PNG to assess asylum claims. Even the minimum safeguards of the Expert Panel have not been met.

The major parties show little concern for adherence to international human rights protection, let alone treating people with dignity. The ALP policy of 'no advantage' is based on myth. There are no average processing times for cases and the idea of setting up a fictional queue is ludicrous. The movement of refugees around the world is a complex issue that cannot be solved by simple slogans or subcontracting our