Australia is using the island of Nauru as an “open-air prison,” putting refugees and asylum seekers through an abusive processing system as a means to prevent immigration, according to a report [text, PDF] released by Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] on Monday. The report claims that Australia has ignored the 1951 Refugee Convention [materials, PDF] by subjecting attempted asylum seekers and refugees to “egregious abuses,” essentially trapping these individuals on the remote island. The report includes dozens of interviews with refugees, documenting claims of mental health issues, suicide attempts and attacks at the hands of Nauru citizens. AI also noted inadequate and often times “deeply humiliating and traumatizing” medical treatment. The report touches on various abuses carried out directly against children, including physical abuse from staff and companies hired by Australia and the denial of their right to education. The report calls upon the Australian government to increase aid to neighboring countries like Nauru in order to ensure the safety and well-being of refugees, increase access to existing, non-humanitarian migration programs, and discuss and implement responsibility-sharing programs.
Australian refugees and their treatment have been a topic of discussion among international human rights organizations as of late. In August Australia announced [JURIST report] that Australia and Papua New Guinea intend on closing the controversial Manus Island detention center. That same month AI and Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued reports [JURIST report] stating that Australia is ignoring inhumane treatment of detainees in Nauru. In May the Papua New Guinea officials stated Australian refugees are not being detained [JURIST report] on Manus Island, as they are given access to mainland Australia, although refugee advocates believe that the refugees are being faced with arbitrary restrictions to the mainland. The statement by officials followed a ruling by the Papua New Guinea Supreme Court that the Australian off-shore detention facility was illegal, in direct opposition to a ruling [JURIST reports] by the Australian Supreme Court earlier this year that the off-shore detention was legal. In February the UN Human Rights Committee issued a report [JURIST report] in which it stated Australia had violated the rights of Guantanamo detainee David Hicks, continuing to detain him after his transfer from the United States.