Did you hear? Malcolm Turnbull has used the recent UN Summit on Refugees to declare Australia’s border protection policies to be “the best in the world”.
1. They’ve cost Australian taxpayers $9.6 billion in just three years.
We’ve crunched the numbers and it turns out, in the past three years, Australia has spent $9.6 billion (that’s not a typo, we mean billion) on offshore processing on Nauru and Manus, onshore detention and boat turn-backs.
Offshore processing on Nauru and Manus alone is estimated to cost over $400,000 per person, per year. There’s definitely a better way to spend that money. For every refugee kept on Nauru and Manus, the Australian government could support 12 refugees with housing, healthcare and basic living expenses here in the community.
2. They’ve damaged Australia’s global reputation.
Australia has a pretty good history with regard to human rights and migration – one we should be keen to continue. But we’ve not done a great job lately.
Australia’s policies with respect to asylum seekers who try to enter Australia by boat and our treatment of children and families should not be seen as ‘best practice’. Our approach reflects badly on Australia’s reputation as a country that respects human rights.
In fact, Australia has been found to be in breach of international human rights law more than 40 times. And in March this year, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture found that our country’s treatment of asylum seekers breached anti-torture standards.
3. Children who have fled conflict in search of safety have been in limbo on Nauru for years.
Children have spent prolonged periods of time in detention or detention-like conditions on Nauru –with some detained for more than two years. We can’t even begin to imagine the hopelessness and anxiety of being trapped on a small island in the Pacific where they can never make a permanent home and are unable to move on with their lives.
Australia’s immigration policies mean some children are basically missing out on two years of their lives – and they’re suffering while they wait.
4. Children in detention are frequently exposed to harm, violence and abuse…
We’ve seen from countless sources over the past few years that children on Nauru have been subjected to abuse, violence and other harm. The Nauru files revealed countless reports of the mistreatment that has occurred on Nauru – including sexual assault of children.
Children are also suffering significant harm to their mental health, with reports of desperation and self-harm involving children and their families.
5. Nobody is allowed to talk about it because the operations are cloaked in secrecy.
Our government introduced secrecy laws that impose criminal prosecution on anyone willing to speak out about abuses that occur in immigration facilities. These harsh secrecy laws are designed to punish and shut down potential human rights whistle-blowers.
This means anyone providing services in Australia’s immigration detention system can’t speak out about what they witness without fear of being prosecuted.
As a result, it’s very hard for the Australian public to know exactly what’s happening to refugees and asylum seekers in places like Nauru.
While the Nauru Files and the more recent 2016 leak of information from Nauru is allowing some information to see the light of day, this heavy-handed secrecy does not instil confidence.
6. We only take 13,750 refugees annually, in a world that has more than 21 million refugees.
We’re a rich country and we do far from our fair share when it comes to the global refugee crisis. We can’t just ignore the scale of need.
Millions of people have fled their homes – resulting in the highest number of displaced people in recorded history - so it’s not enough for Australia to offer just 13,750 places annually (plus the current one-off intake of 12,000 refugees from Syria and Iraq).
Australia is a great country when it comes to human rights, it’s hard to feel proud at the moment. We should be doing more for the people who need us most.
Malcolm Turnbull wants to claim that Australia’s border protection policies are the best in the world. But best for who?
Clearly not for Australian taxpayers or the children and families that are caught up in our inhumane and unsustainable immigration system. It’s time to change this. It’s time to offer hope.
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