Refugee Advocates Rally Outside Detainee Hotel

Amnesty International Annual Report: Australia continues to be a global laggard on refugees, First Nations justice and climate

Australia’s continued incarceration of children as young as 10 years old, ongoing brutal treatment of refugees and asylum seekers and failure to adopt carbon emission reduction targets were just some of the human rights issues raised in Amnesty International’s 2021-22 annual report.

Amnesty International Australia National Director, Sam Klintworth, said the report highlighted that there is still a long way to go in ensuring that the human rights of all individuals are protected and supported in Australia.

“There are still too many people who are unable to access their basic human rights in Australia. The continued failure of members of society including refugees, asylum seekers and First Nations People to access their rights, demonstrates the urgent need for the government to implement an overarching single Human Rights Act that defends and protects the rights of all people.”

The report highlighted the Australian Government’s continued detainment of children as young as 10 years. Whilst there was some progress in the nation’s capital with the ACT Government committing to increase the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 14, no other states are yet to follow suit.

“The Australian Government is still choosing to ignore the overwhelming evidence from health experts, social workers, Indigenous leaders, legal experts and human rights organisations, that forcing children through a criminal legal process significantly harms their health, wellbeing and future. Sending children to prison is not the answer.”

The urgent need for the government to increase its humanitarian intake was stressed in the report, with the number of refugees accepted for resettlement in Australia decreasing from 18,750 in 2020 to 13,750 in 2021. Although the government announced an end to offshore processing in Papua New Guinea by the end of the year, the indefinite and arbitrary detention of refugees and asylum seekers continued.

“While last week’s announcement of the deal to settle refugees in New Zealand is very welcome, it doesn’t address the decline in our humanitarian intake, nor does it do anything to dismantle the brutal offshore processing regime,” Klintworth said.

Australia’s lack of climate action was also highlighted in the report with the government continuing to fund coal and gas development projects, often in violation of Indigenous people’s rights. Further, Australia failed to adopt carbon emission reduction targets consistent with its obligations under the Paris Agreement and human rights law.

Attacks on the LGBTI community also continued as the government announced plans to introduce a revised Bill on Religious Freedom. Further, the government’s lack of action towards tackling issues surrounding sexual and gender-based violence was also criticised in the report, with recommendations for legislative reforms made by the Australian Human Rights Commission in 2020 following its inquiry into sexual harassment in the workplace still not fully implemented by the end of the year.