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Australian Government takes extreme step in shirking responsibility

    November 14, 2016

    Today’s announcement by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on third country resettlement is an extreme step in shirking responsibility by the Australian Government, said Amnesty International.

    Prime Minister Turnbull today announced that the Australian Government is in discussions with the United States for some of the refugees warehoused on Nauru and Manus Island to be settle in the US via a process administered by the UNHCR.

    “It is absolutely shameful that the Australian Government has first sent several thousand people to languish for three years on Nauru and Manus Island, set up an offshore processing regime on Nauru that amounts to torture and is now passing the buck when it comes to offering them protection,” said Dr Graham Thom, Refugee Coordinator at Amnesty International Australia. 

    “Australia is one of the wealthiest countries in the world and should be leading by example at a time of global record high levels of people forced to seek safety. Yet our Government is failing to play a fair part in providing sanctuary for those fleeing conflict and persecution, and this urgently needs to change.

    “Amnesty International has seen first hand the horrific abuse that is being inflicted on people in Nauru and on Manus Island, so we are pleased that for those who may be resettled in the US the abuse will come to an end and we acknowledge the US for giving people a genuine chance at settling and restarting their lives in a safe place.

    “What this announcement clearly shows is that the Australian Government has finally acknowledged that Australia's offshore processing policy is not tenable and Australia’s centres on Nauru and Manus Island must be urgently emptied and closed."

    Amnesty International is extremely concerned about the lack of information provided by the Australian Government around the timeline of this deal taking place and lack of clarity around the numbers of people who will be given the opportunity to settle in the US, with fears that many people will be left behind to languish in limbo.

    Amnesty International also raises serious concerns around the introduction of the 20 year visa for people on Nauru, given the well-documented systematic mistreatment, attacks, discrimination and inadequate medical care experienced for years by the hundreds of people warehoused by the Australian Government on Nauru.

    “The people on Nauru and Manus Island have suffered severe trauma at the hands of the Australian Government. A durable solution to this failed policy of offshore processing means that all people are settled safely where they have access to appropriate health care and access to torture trauma services, not trapping them in further limbo,” said Graham Thom.

    Amnesty International refutes the Government’s claims that the lifetime ban is a necessary step towards achieving third country resettlements for the refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island. The lifetime ban is an outrageous and unnecessary proposal that  discriminates against people seeking safety based on their mode of arrival, which is in clear breach of Australia’s obligations under international law.

    Amnesty International is strongly urging the Australian Government to finally resolve the unsustainable situation that is offshore detention. The fairest and quickest way to look after the 2000 men, women and children on Nauru and Manus Island is to bring them to Australia now to process their asylum claims and welcome refugees into our community.

    The next step is for Australia to immediately invest in alternative solutions that both protect the human rights of people seeking asylum and prevent avoidable deaths - twin goals which should be the bedrock of any asylum seeker policy.

    “There are humane solutions – that both reduce deaths at sea and eliminate abuse – one shouldn’t come at the expense of the other and it’s about time the Australian Government stops ignoring this,” said Graham Thom.

     

    For more information please contact Elizabeth Berton-Hunter, Media Relations 416-363-9933 ext 332 bberton-hunter@amnesty.ca

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