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Joint-Statement by Franciscans International, Edmund Rice International and the Marist International Solidarity Foundation at the 28th Session of the Human Rights Council

18 March, 2015

Human Rights of asylum seekers to Australia

Thank you Mr President,

On behalf of Franciscans International, Edmund Rice International and the Marist International Solidarity Foundation, we wish to address the Council on the current situation of the human rights of asylum seekers to Australia.

The Australian Government has adopted a harsh policy towards asylum seekers arriving by boat, in contradiction of its international human rights obligations. It has enacted a policy of processing asylum-seekers in a third-country and signed three Memoranda of Understandings (MoU) with Nauru and Papua New Guinea (PNG) in 2012 and Cambodia at the end of September 2014. Currently, Nauru and PNG serve as regional processing countries and the transfer of detainees from Nauru to Cambodia is planned..[1]

Recently the Australian Human Rights Commission released a revealing report the Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention 2014 The Forgotten Children. It found that “Children on Nauru are suffering from extreme levels of physical, emotional, psychological and developmental distress”[2] and confirmed that the prolonged, mandatory detention of asylum seeker children causes them significant mental and physical illness and developmental delays, in breach of Australia’s international obligations.[3] It feared there would be no time limit on the detention of the children.[4] The report also revealed that between January 2013 and March 2014, children were involved in or exposed to assault and self-harm incidents. These included 207 cases of actual self-harm, in which 128 children were involved and further incidents where 171 children threatened self-harm. A total of 27 children were engaged in a voluntary hunger strike, while 233 assaults involving children were reported, including 33 incidents of reported sexual assault, with the vast majority involving children. The average period of detention is between three to 14 months.

We express our further deep concern that rather than respond to the disturbing findings of the report which the UN’s working group on arbitrary detention has described as “highly authoritative and their findings reliable”, the Government of Australia has tried to silence critical views of its current policy and attacked the President of the Australian Human Rights Commission labeling the report a “blatantly partisan exercise”..[5]

More recently, in response to the report of United Nations special rapporteur on torture which stated that Australia’s current policy violates “the right of the asylum seekers including children to be free from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment,”[6] the Australian Prime Minister complained about Australia being “lectured by the United Nations”[7]

Therefore, we recommend that the Australian government:

  1. ensure the reception of asylum-seekers and the processing of their claims according to International human rights and humanitarian law to which Australia is a state party;
  2. immediately close the Regional Processing Centres in Nauru and Manus Island, and return to a policy of processing asylum-seekers on the Australian mainland, and ban the practice of processing such claims while claimants are still at sea;
  3. accept and implement the Recommendations of the Report of the Australian Human Rights Commission National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention;

Thank you.

[1] See the information provided by the Australian Human Rights Commission at https://www.humanrights.gov.au/transfer-asylum-seekers-third-countries

[2] Australian Human Rights Commission: The Forgotten Children: National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention 2014 released 11 Feb 2015 p195

[3] See the report of the Australian National Commission of Human Rights at https://www.humanrights.gov.au/sites/default/files/document/publication/forgotten_children_2014.pdf

[4] The report also found that the detention breached article 37(b) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

[5] See at http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/feb/12/tony-abbott-rejects-report-children-detention-blatantly-political

[6] See CAT/C/AUS/CO/4-5 “Concluding observations on the combined fourth and fifth periodic reports of Australia”

[7] See http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/mar/09/un-reports-australias-immigration-detention-breaches-torture-convention

2 Responses to “Australia: Oral Statement re Asylum Seekers on Nauru (17/3/15)”

  1. Thanks for adding an International Voice to the many people in Australia who have registered their dismay and discust at the comments made by some of countrys leaders regarding both the content of the Report and the integrity og the Head of our Human Rights Commission. It would seem that many of these ‘commentators’ have not even read the Report.

  2. Gerard Ellul 24 March 2015 at 07:52

    Thanks to ERI, FI and MISF for making this strong statement on behalf of so many of us associated with the congregations represented. It is slow work, I am sure, to get governments anywhere to change, but these initiatives hopefully push things forward.