A crowd gathers in Sydney to protest the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers, February 2016.

Six Year Anniversary of Offshore Detention

Today, (19 July 2019) marks the six year anniversary of the Rudd Government’s decision that anyone arriving by boat seeking safety would be deported to indefinite offshore detention, on Manus (PNG) or Nauru, and be subject to a permanent ban on settling in Australia.

Since that date 3,127 people have been sent to Nauru or PNG (another 1050 were sent previous to this date).

Offshore detention has been plagued with human rights abuses from the start. Riots, deaths, the rape and sexual assault of women and abuse of children grabbed the headlines, but still the Government did nothing to end the practice of offshore processing.

Amnesty International remains one of the few independent organisations to have visited both islands and witnessed first hand the damage offshore processing has caused.

Dr Graham Thom, Refugee Coordinator at Amnesty International Australia said:

“Six disastrous and damaging years on from Rudd’s announcement, there are still more than 800 people imprisoned on Manus and Nauru. Three years on from PNG’s Supreme Court ruling that detention of asylum seekers on Manus Island was illegal, they are still detained.

“Two years after the Easter shootings, where PNG Defence Force personnel fired shots into the Centre on Manus Island and the subsequent forcible closure of the Regional Processing Centre at Lombrum Naval Base, conditions have continued to deteriorate for the men still being held on Manus Island.

“How many more tragedies and outrageous injustices must the people on Manus and Nauru endure before they are allowed to reach safety?”

The conditions in Manus and Nauru are putting extreme pressure on the mental health of those stuck there. Levels of depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder are soaring. There is limited access to medical facilities and doctors. In recent months more than 100 men have attempted suicide or self-harmed on Manus.

Dr Thom added:

“Offshore processing has failed. The government’s current approach isolates and harms people, rather than helping them. And the secrecy that surrounds offshore processing is a stark warning that something is wrong. The vast sums of money being handed over to private contractors cannot hide the untold damage these policies have caused.

“There must be an urgent plan to resolve the situation for all refugees and people seeking asylum on Manus Island and Nauru. Authorities in Australia should do the only humane thing and immediately bring the refugees and people seeking asylum to safety. The abhorrent practice of offshore detention must end.”