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Amnesty says Australia’s treatment of refugees amounts to ‘systematic’ torture

https-blueprint-api-production-s3-amazonaws-com-uploads-card-image-249763-ap_16216239641558By Ariel Bogle From Mashable

A major report by Amnesty International has condemned Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers as a “deliberate and systematic regime” of neglect and cruelty, amounting to torture.

Released Monday, the “Island of Despair” is based on research and interviews with asylum seekers placed by Australia on the Pacific island of Nauru. It documents the mental anguish and trauma of men, women and children who are held in the offshore processing centre indefinitely.

Amnesty found suicide attempts are common and healthcare severely lacking.

Australia’s policy of deterrence, placing anyone who arrives by boat in offshore detention centres, began in 2001. Placing refugees offshore on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea or Nauru is intended to deter other asylum seekers from making the journey. However Amnesty said the “ends do not justify means.”

“On Nauru, the Australian government runs an open-air prison designed to inflict as much suffering as necessary to stop some of the world’s most vulnerable people from trying to find safety,” Amnesty International’s senior director for research, Anna Neistat, told the Guardian.

https-blueprint-api-production-s3-amazonaws-com-uploads-card-image-249752-a03bb407c7a447e8b6afacb925ec1fd5“No state can justify subjecting some people to cruelty and abuse to prevent loss of life, never mind to reduce migration numbers,” the report said.

Amnesty found mental illness among the refugee community on Nauru was “shockingly commonplace.” The report recounts harrowing instances of self harm, as well inadequate medical care.

“One man told Amnesty International that he had tried to kill himself twice in the previous 10 weeks,” it reported.

“Another man described how his wife started having mental health problems after they arrived on Nauru. A week after their daughter was born, she witnessed a young Iranian man set himself on fire, and lost her breastmilk. She has barely talked or left her home since.”

The abuse of child refugees on the island was also called “chilling,” while Amnesty said the island’s unsafe environment made it next to impossible for them to attend school. The Royal Australasian College of Physicians has also condemned detention as “an extreme and unacceptable risk” to the health of children.

On Monday, the ABC program Four Corners aired interviews with child refugees on Nauru. A former teacher on Nauru with Save the Children called living in the centre “death by slow torture.”

“The place is set up to make people go mad or make people die inside.”

The Government of Nauru released a statement calling the Four Corners program an insult. “From start to finish it was denigrating, racist, false and pure political activism.”

In a statement, Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection said Amnesty’s report included claims that had been refuted by the government. “In many cases the report references unsubstantiated claims made by individuals or advocacy groups as fact in the absence of evidence,” it said.

“The Department takes the health and safety of refugees and transferees in Nauru very seriously and welcomes independent scrutiny of Australia’s support of regional processing arrangements.”

It is notoriously difficult for journalists to visit Australia’s offshore processing centres, and it is a crime for doctors and social workers on the island to speak out.

According to Amnesty, 1,159 asylum-seekers and refugees still live on Nauru, both in the Refugee Processing Centre and outside the camp.

If you want to talk to someone or are experiencing suicidal thoughts, text the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. For international resources, this list is a good place to start.

Refugees, right, gather on one side of a fence to talk with international journalists about their journey that brought them to the Island of Nauru in 2001. Image: AP
Protesters at Town Hall Square gathered to demonstrate against offshore detention
Image: Pacific Press/Sipa USA

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