So. This is the true nature of Australia’s biggest disgrace. The British newspaper, the Guardian has released an expose of the Nauru Detention Centre. It has uncovered mistreatment of individuals there that is worse than the American treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. The difference is that the vast majority of these people have done nothing wrong at all.
So, what has the reaction been?
In Australia, the reaction has been mixed. Amnesty International Australia and Human Rights Watch have voiced their disgust. The Australian Government reaction has been to dismiss the allegations, with Minister of Immigration Peter Dutton saying that it is nothing that has not been reported on before.
So far New Zealand politicians have been reluctant to call out Australia on the issue. The closest to a sure reaction has been the Labour Party asking the Australian High Commission to explain Australia’s conduct with regards to the detention centres. New Zealand First is keeping a “watching brief”, and the Government has so far refrained from comment, saying it has not read the report. United Future, the Maori Party and A.C.T. are yet to comment.
But the facts are there. Extensive efforts to uncover the nature of abuses on Nauru have lead to some appalling evidence being found. Most of the allegations are too graphic to mention in this post*. Allegations of torture are rife. One example was a refugee saying how she wished she were shot dead than to remain as a refugee in one of the detention centres. The fact of the matter is that there must have been ongoing abuse for a significant period of time to generate the level of desperation and angst that led to the riots a year ago. The fact of the matter is that these are facilities in remote locations with hostile environments and if the accusations levelled against them are to believed, are clearly not equipped or being run in a manner that could constitute anything other than a prison camp – if even that.
Yet sadly there are Australian politicians who genuinely believe that Australia is being invaded by refugees and immigrants and that these camps and everything that goes on inside them is perfectly justified. For these politicians, there is nothing wrong with the second grade treatment of asylum seekers from countries that are too dangerous to live in because of the political environment, refugees from Syria and elsewhere who find themselves in a humanitarian situation in their country of origin that is too dangerous to stay in. These politicians include Corey Bernardi, One Nation leader Pauline Hanson, Mr Dutton among others.
Australia’s conduct with regards to Nauru and Manus Island is a regular subject of United Nations criticism. Unfortunately that criticism is probably going to get a lot more severe in the very near future. And it is not difficult to see why.