Australia Refugee Crisis

  • Since 9/11, Australia has upheld a strict refugee and immigration policy known as the “Pacific Solution.” This policy prohibits any refugees or asylum seekers from stepping foot on the mainland, and instead transfers them to offshore detention centers while their claims as a refugee or an asylum seeker are processed. Three such detention centers exist: one on the Pacific island of Nauru, one on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island and one on Christmas Island. These “processing” detention centers are specifically located on land that is not considered Australia, allowing the nation to shirk the responsibilities of the refugees under the U.N. Refugee Convention. The Australian military is responsible for intercepting migrant boats bound for Australia, where the migrants are then relocated to these camps. Australian leaders claim that this approach deters the dangerous sea crossings by the asylum seekers and refugees, as well as allowing the country to more closely monitor who comes into the country. However, the cruel and inhumane conditions of the camps (such as a lack of facilities, cramped conditions and unbearable heat with almost no available shade) have led to numerous protests across the country, as well as a possible court case by the ICC for crimes against humanity and violations of multiple conventions against torture. While Papua New Guinea's Supreme Court has recently ruled the detention center on Manus Island as unconstitutional and ordered the camp closed, the Australian Supreme Court has ruled that the camps are legal, and it will likely remain open. Even if these centers are closed, the issue of settling refugees on the mainland and in normal lives remains.
Related Groups NGOs working on the issue
  • Amnesty International
  • Australian Refugee Action Network
  • Refugee Council of Australia
  • Right Now
Links to additional relevant NGOs
Sources to Consult

Ideas for helping out with the issue
  1. 1) Participate in the protests held in major cities in the country. 2) Boycott companies that are benefitting from the detention centers. 3) donate clothes, food, money and other supplies to groups working with the detention centers for the asylum seekers
Abdile, Hani. I Will Rise. Writing Through The Fences, 2016. Hani Abdile is a young student who came to Australia from Somalia as a refugee at the age of seventeen. She was detained on Christmas Island for three years, during which she learned English and began writing poetry. I Will Rise is her first published collection of poems; it tells her story of fleeing her home and being detained. It is full of every emotion from fear to anger to hope. To purchase and learn more about the book visit http://writingthroughfences.org/2016/12/i-will-rise/ David Goldie, director. Long Journey Young Lives. Australia Broadcasting Corporation, Goldie Dahdal New Media, 2016, http://www.abc.net.au/longjourney/ Long Journey Young Lives is a unique interactive resource telling the lives of young refugees. Users can click on different people and different parts of the map to view video testimony of the children, documenting their journey to and their new lives in Australia. This is a great resource for classrooms and for engaging people in listening to the stories of these marginalized people. “AUSTRALIA: TREASURE I$LAND: HOW COMPANIES ARE PROFITING FROM AUSTRALIA'S ABUSE OF REFUGEES ON NAURU.” Amnesty International, Amnesty International Ltd, 5 Apr. 2017, www.amnesty.org/en/documents/asa12/5942/2017/en/. Amnesty International has compiled research about companies, especially one called Broadspectrum, that are profiting immensely from the detainment of refugees. The report summarizes the situation at the detention center on Nauru and details the human rights violations that these companies are directly participating in or otherwise being complicit in. Amnesty International explains the responsibilities these companies have and ends by making recommendations for future companies in the care of refugees. Crépeau, François. “Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants on His Mission to Australia and the Regional Processing Centres in Nauru.” United Nations, United Nations, 24 Apr. 2017, www.undocs.org/A/HRC/35/25/Add.3 François Crépeau, the “Special Rapporteour on Human Rights” visited Australia in November 2016. The details of his findings, both of the improvements Australia has made and still needs to make in its treatment of refugees are found in this report. Information on relevant laws, policies, and agencies are also provided for reference. This source is more positive that most and while it does condemn human rights violations, it also shows how progress has been made. Cox, Emma, editor. Staging Asylum: Contemporary Australian Plays About Refugees. Currency Press, 2013. ProQuest. http://ebookcentral.proquest.com.ezproxy2.library.arizona.edu/lib/uaz/reader.action?docID=1675057 This collection of plays provides several perspectives regarding the political culture regarding refugees in Australian in the early 2000s. Some of the plays are dark satires criticizing politics while others are written by refugees themselves or in collaboration with other organizations. Using theatre to express the voices of refugees and those that stand in solidarity with them is a valuable nontraditional medium. Hamilton, Rebecca. “Australia’s Refugee Policy Is A Crime Against Humanity.” Foreign Policy, 23 Feb. 2017, foreignpolicy.com/2017/02/23/australias-refugee-policy-may-be-officially-a-crime-against-humanity/ A group of human rights lawyers submitted a brief with the ICC’s prosecutor through Stanford Law School’s Human Rights Clinic. The brief displays information supporting the claim that Australia’s government has been enabling and committing crimes against humanity for the past decade through their strict refugee asylum program. “Australia Asylum: Why Is It Controversial?” BBC News, BBC, 3 Aug. 2016, www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-28189608. Australia was seeing about 13,000 refugees arrive to the country annually after 9/11, with 18,000 refugees at its peak. With the introduction of the tough new refugee policies, those numbers severely decreased. The policies handed over responsibilities of the refugees to the military, which responded by opening “processing camps” in Manus and Nauru and holding all refugees in these camps with cruel and inhumane conditions. Papua New Guinea's Supreme Court basically ruled the camp there as unconstitutional in April 2016 and ordered it closed. The inmates were then expected to move to the processing camp on Christmas Island or Nauru. Alfred, Charlotte. “Australia's Hidden, Deadly Migrant Crisis.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 7 May 2016, www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/australia-migrant-crisis-deaths_us_572d01abe4b096e9f0917807. Refugees have long been trying to enter Australia through migrant boats at the hands of people smugglers. In response to this, the Australian military has been intercepting all migrant boats and relocating those seeking asylum to the offshore processing camps. The inhumane conditions of the camp have led to large number of self-harm by the refugees awaiting their asylum claims to be processed. Once the claims approved, the refugees are granted asylum on either of the islands or even Cambodia, but not Australia. “Australia Inquiry Says Nauru Prison Unsafe.” Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera Media Network, 3 Feb. 2016, www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/02/australia-court-imprisoning-refugees-offshore-legal-160203033632383.html. This news segment focuses on the allegations of abuse, both sexual and physical, on the staff members running the Nauru processing camp. A former guard testified to the Australian Supreme Court that there was evidence of torture such as waterboarding in the camp. There were also some 30 allegations of sexual abuse against the staffers at the camp, and many of the victims were children. Also, the media was allowed into the camp while the military was building the camp, but now that the camp is occupied the media is no longer able to visit. Saad Tlaa. “Inside Villawood 1.” The Refugee Art Project, Therefugeeartproject.com, 2013, therefugeeartproject.com, therefugeeartproject.com/home/surviving-detention/ This website was created in 2010 as a response to the growing concerns among the people of Australia in regards to the refugee crisis. The project was created in order to showcase some of the enormous amount of talent that’s being locked away in the detention camps. Since the start of the project, more than 500 pieces of art have been submitted by refugees and asylum seekers, all of which have been displayed to the Australian public.

Testimonials

“They just want is to die. For the last three years we were under heavy, systematic torture (which) aim to force us to go back… Hundreds of us lost their minds completely. They want to force us to go back to our country, and then when we deny, we say we don’t want to go back because we don’t have safety, we will be killed, they tell us, okay, we will offer you resettlement in PNG. But the reality is in PNG there is no safety at all. We started to plead with them, we don’t want to go to Australia, please leave us or let other countries like New Zealand or Canada take us, but the Australian government is refusing those countries." - Sudanese refugee Aziz Adam on Christmas Island detention center (http://www.cnn.com/2016/08/19/asia/manus-island-australia-closing-stories/) “My Mum passed away when I was in here, in this detention center. My sister got married, and I’m here. My step-mum got pregnant and the child died and I’m here. I have no feeling toward my family. They’ve been away from my eyes and my heart. If the Australian government, they want to make us engineers… they can do. But they didn’t chose this way, they just chose to kill us, to kill our feeling, to kill our dream, our future, to not be ambitious anymore. In cold blood.” - Lebanese refugee Ahmed Trad on detention center (http://www.cnn.com/2016/08/19/asia/manus-island-australia-closing-stories/) “A man told me about his pregnant wife who tried to hang herself because she couldn’t bear the thought of bringing another person into that world. I met children who had tried to kill themselves multiple times. The distressing and heartbreaking accounts of deteriorating mental health, discrimination and violent attacks, sexual violence, inadequate medical care and harassment that I heard from mothers, fathers, adults and children as young as six, paint a picture of people driven to absolute despair.” -Anna Neistat, Amnesty International, on her account of the 100 interviews of refugees from the detention camps (https://www.amnesty.org.au/island-of-despair-nauru-refugee-report-2016/)

Testimonials

Australia Refugee Crisis