Amnesty International Australia urges the Labor government to end the years of abuse and ensure people’s human rights are realised, as a private members Bill is considered in the Senate this week calling for the transfer to Australia of all refugees and people seeking asylum who remain stuck in Nauru and Papua New Guinea for medical care.
The Migration Amendment (Evacuation to Safety) Bill calls for an end to the suffering for approximately 150 refugees and people seeking asylum who remain stuck in Nauru and PNG.
Some people have spent 10 years in Australia’s offshore detention system that is in clear breach of Australia’s obligations under the Refugee Convention.
“This Bill is in line with Labor’s policy platform. If Labor fails to support this Bill it will be a missed opportunity to give hope to people who desperately need medical care but continue to suffer in horrible conditions on Nauru and in Papua New Guinea. The reality is that the situation in Australia’s offshore detention regime is a recognised humanitarian emergency requiring urgent intervention,” said Amnesty International Australia Strategic Campaigner Ry Atkinson.
Australia has an obligation to recognise people’s right to seek refuge from persecution no matter their mode of arrival, and to treat people humanely through asylum processes. Instead, Australia has unfairly punished people who arrived after July 2013 when Australian Government policy relating to people who arrived by sea changed and people were forced into offshore detention.
“The time some people have now spent in offshore detention has caused physical and mental harm to such an extent that many have lost hope. More than a dozen people have lost their lives as a result of this system. The UN, along with Amnesty, has repeatedly said this cruel treatment amounts to torture and must end,” Atkinson said.
Amnesty International Australia’s submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, which held an Inquiry into the Bill, supported amendments to the Migration Act that would see those remaining in Nauru and PNG be brought to Australia immediately for medical care and, importantly, allowed to live in the community.
A key focus of Amnesty’s submission was also ensuring that bridging visas allow people the right to work and study while being supported to find permanent resettlement solutions so they can get on with their lives.
“We need to see an end to people in poor health who are brought to Australia for medical treatment suffering even further by being detained in detention centres or alternative places of detention, known as APODs. But we also need to ensure that when living in the community, people have access to the things that will help them reintegrate into society and set them up for success,” Atkinson said.
Amnesty’s submission also calls on the Australian Government to end its damaging policy of offshore processing and detention and permanently close the so-called ‘Regional Processing Centre’ on Nauru.