The Australian government has taken a number of steps to leave genuine refugees with no alternative but to go back to the jeopardy from which they have fled.
By not allowing those who arrive by boat to EVER enter Australia and therefore:
- leaving them with no support on Manus Island (where they have no citizenship rights and have already experienced the hostility of local people) as the detention centre closes;
- languishing in the Nauru facility, where the uncertainty and inhumane conditions inevitability lead to both mental and physical deterioration
some detainees have no option but to return to danger and oppression where the risks are extremely high but they might at least have some family support or some restricted opportunities to work, depending on the circumstances.
The punitive offshore detention policy may seem an extreme approach from the government of a civilised democratic nation which espouses the values that would be expected to underline active agreement to protect the most vulnerable people in the world. However, Australia’s Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton has recently instigated additional processes to impel asylum seekers to face refoulement …
In September 2017, people held in community detention in Australia who were relocated from Manus Island or Nauru due to serious medical and protection concerns (which acknowledges the lack of health support and the high risk environment offshore) began to receive notification that they were to have their access to accommodation and financial support terminated.
The imposition of the new “final departure bridging visa” – issued to more than 60 asylum seekers in the first few weeks of its existence – means that people who need medical support or protection will have all government financial support ended and face eviction from government-supplied housing within a week. In addition, it has been reported that up to 400 people – including families with infant children born in Australia – face having government support withdrawn in an effort to encourage them to abandon their protection claims, or return to Australia’s offshore detention islands of Manus and Nauru.
As a result, the UN High Commissioner has condemned the Australian government for taking steps to coerce asylum seekers to return to the territory from which they have fled … knowing that the principle of non-refoulement is “the cornerstone of asylum and of international refugee law” and is a basic right under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
A formal complaint has been lodged with UN rapporteurs who hold mandates from the United Nations Human Rights Council, the powerful UN body to which Australia is seeking election in November.
Daniel Webb from the Human Rights Law Centre said the new visa regimen forced refugees and asylumseekers to face an invidious choice between destitution in Australia or danger and abuse in offshore detention OR back in the territory from which they have fled.
Two weeks after this strategy for asylum seekers who had been relocated onshore had been revealed, it became public that the Australian government was also endeavouring to refoul Rohingya refugees incarcerated on Manus Island by pressuring them accept up to A$25,000 if they would agree to return to Myanmar … at a time when it has become clear that ‘ethnic cleansing’ against these people has become SIGNIFICANTLY WORSE.
Yahya Tabani, a 32-year-old Rohingya man who arrived in Australia in 2013 but was sent immediately to Manus Island, said he had no choice but to return.