Offshore detention reaches critical point, further tragedy inevitable unless Australia acts responsibly

Offshore detention reaches critical point, further tragedy inevitable unless Australia acts responsibly

JOINT STATEMENT

Amnesty International | Human Rights Law Centre | Refugee Council of Australia | Sr Jane Keogh | Imran Mohammad

Accountability and an immediate plan to guarantee the safety of refugees trapped on Nauru and Manus Island are needed urgently as the evidence stacks up on the danger, deliberate abuse and suffering the Australian Government’s offshore detention regime is causing. 

The clear message being delivered ahead of the Immigration Department’s appearance at Budget Estimates on Monday is, we will not stand by and allow our Government to sweep their responsibility under the carpet.

The organisations are warning that further tragedy is inevitable unless Australia acts responsibly by evacuating the camps and bringing all of those trapped in offshore detention to safety immediately.

They are also making it very clear that no refugee or person seeking asylum can be left behind in PNG or Nauru.

Graham Thom, Refugee Coordinator at Amnesty International said that there is ongoing risk to people’s lives on Manus Island following the Good Friday shooting.

“Enough is enough, the truth is out in plain sight and questions must be answered. The Australian Government has designed a deliberately abusive system, intended to harm people. Such a callous indifference to the safety and well-being of refugees puts them at great risk.”

The Human Rights Law Centre’s Director of Legal Advocacy, Daniel Webb, who has travelled to Manus three times to investigate conditions on the ground, said that while moves to close the Manus camp were clearly underway, the Government still had no viable plan to ensure the safety of the 850 men languishing inside.

“This isn’t about just tearing down the fences, it’s about finding a safe and viable way forward for the men trapped inside. Every single one of these men deserves the chance to finally start rebuilding their lives in safety. Hopefully the US deal will be a lifeline for some but it won’t be enough to ensure safety for all. It’s not good enough to just leave innocent people trapped in limbo in unsafe conditions forever.”

1600 people from Nauru and Manus Island have registered their interest for resettlement in the US. So far 900 people have started the process. With over 2000 people trapped in offshore detention and without concrete details available on the US deal, currently several hundred and possibly up to 1000 people are left with no solution for safety.

Sr Jane Keogh, Brigidine Sister in Canberra, who has just returned from Manus Island said the refugees there are living in great fear right now.

“Every day I get several messages about this, desperate calls for help. “Do not leave us here to die” they say. Australia has the capacity, the ability, the history and the heart to do the right thing and to offer protection to people who are seeking safety.”

Imran Mohammad a 22-year-old Rohingya refugee held on Manus Island said: “We fear for those who will be left behind as there is no safety and structure for refugees to be resettled [in PNG].”

“All we want is a life that we can create in safety. I beg you today on behalf of all those refugees and asylum seekers, please open your hearts, show some kindness and compassion and humanity.”

Tim O’Connor, Director at the Refugee Council of Australia said that Australia is presiding over a humanitarian crisis of its own making.

“Innocent people who came to us seeking safety have been trapped in a circle of hell while our Governments have dithered and delayed. This is a time for common sense and compassion. The immediate solution is to bring all those we have sent to Nauru and Manus to Australia immediately, it’s the fairest and quickest way to prevent another tragedy.”

Read Imran's statement here.

Further statements by all those quoted above will be given at tomorrow’s press conference.

For interviews please call:

Amnesty International: Anita Harvey on 0423 280 658

Human Rights Law Centre: Michelle Bennett on 0419 100 519

Refugee Council of Australia: Laura Stacey on 0488 035 535

Photo: Matthew Abbott