PNG deal carries huge human rights risks

Plans to send all asylum seekers to Papua New Guinea breach international law and condemn thousands of people to significant suffering.

The Human Rights Law Centre’s Senior Lawyer, Daniel Webb, said:

“This isn’t a regional solution, it’s a hasty deal that carries huge human rights risks. Prime Minister Rudd said countries shouldn’t ‘pass the parcel’ but this is exactly what Australia is doing. This isn’t shouldering our fair share of our refugee obligations, it’s outsourcing them to another country without Australia's wealth, stability or security.”

"The announcement will broaden the scope of a cruel and ineffective policy. Under the new policy, no refugee arriving by boat will be resettled in Australia."

“Just last week, the UNHCR confirmed that every single person transferred to Manus is showing signs of mental illness and that their indefinite detention violates international law. Now we will be transferring thousands more into these conditions in as little as two weeks.”

“This announcement carries grave risks of serious and sustained human rights violations. Australia, with all its resources, has shown itself incapable of humanely processing asylum seekers within reasonable timeframes. So we have every reason to doubt that PNG, with its challenges, will be able to do so. We simply don’t believe there will be adequate support and safeguards for the large numbers of asylum seekers PNG will be required to process and settle.”

“Despite many attempts, we’ve never had an offshore processing system that is lawful or humane. This arrangement is offshore processing on a much larger scale with far greater risks. Over the last year Australia has been unable to develop humane and appropriate services for the 145 detainees currently held at the Manus Island facility. It is defies belief that safe and appropriate accommodation will somehow now be created for the thousands expected to arrive."

“For many refugees, normal pathways don’t exist and the only choice is get on a boat or languish indefinitely in a camp overseas. This arrangement does little or nothing to address this situation and punishes those who arrive by boat.”

“The same sense of compassion and humanity evident when asylum seekers drown at sea must inform the way we treat those who survive. Deaths at sea are tragic, but violating the human rights of survivors is not an effective, lawful or humane policy response.”

“There will be huge financial costs associated with this policy which could be far better spent on a true regional processing solution with structured and assisted resettlement of vulnerable people,” said Mr Webb.


For further information or comments contact:
Daniel Webb 0437 278 961
Rachel Ball 0434 045 919