Monday Night Q&A: The #NauruFiles

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Last week The Guardian leaked 2000 incident reports from Nauru, many of them detailing sexual abuse, assault and self-harm. How has each party reacted to the files? We asked MQU Labor and the Macquarie University Liberal Club to explain their respective parties’ stance and reactions to the leak.

Aidan Galea, MQU Labor’s Assistant Secretary

The Nauru files provide a horrifying account of the conditions that Australia’s offshore immigration centres have deteriorated towards under the current Liberal government. As a result of the Abbott Government’s restrictions imposed on reporting abuses and unsafe conditions in these centres and the outsourcing of managing detention centres to private operators; there is now precious little accountability in ensuring that Australia upholds human rights and international obligations.

The government is instead committed to employing an unconscionable tactic of ‘out of sight, out of mind’ with regards to abuses. Labor takes the reports of the Nauru files incredibly seriously and is committed to the establishment of a Senate inquiry into the matter. This will be paired with the reintroduction of mandatory reporting legislation into parliament that Labor attempted to make law in October last year. Only by instituting these proper safeguards can the Australian people and government be confident that some of the world’s most vulnerable people are treated with necessary care and respect.

Labor’s mandatory reporting legislation is one facet of a comprehensive platform, which strikes the balance of upholding our international humanitarian obligations and increasing Australia’s humanitarian intake, while minimising the destructive effects of the people smuggler industry and the deaths at sea that it contributes to.

Labor’s decision to almost double Australia’s intake from 13,750 to 27,000 will ensure that tens of thousands of refugees in Australia’s region will avoid being stranded in refugee camps or processing centres and instead will be able to start a new life. To assist settlement processes across the region, Labor will also divert $450 million dollars over three years to ensure that the valuable work of the United Nations and other humanitarian organisations is more adequately resourced. This will contribute to speeding up the processing of asylum claims, while also assisting the UNHCR in providing health and education services for asylum seekers.

The operation of Australian-funded processing centres will also undergo significant changes under a Labor government. Rather than the current situation, where processing centres are run as punitive holding cells, Labor will end indefinite detention and process claims quickly and efficiently. Labor’s policy will also end the outsourcing of centre management to private contractors, instead implementing independent oversight to ensure processes are accountable.

Under the policy modifications proposed by Labor, Australia’s immigration processes will undergo significant reform to ensure that all asylum seekers are treated with humanity while under the care of the Australian government, while still continuing the principle of offshore processing in order to discourage the people smuggling trade.

 

 Satyajeet Marar, Macq Liberal Club

Earlier this week, reports surfaced in The Guardian about incidents of violence, abuse and self-immolation which had taken place at Nauru. These mostly concerned incidents which we had already been made aware of over the past few years and these are reports which record allegations that are being currently investigated.

We are wrong to assume that asylum seekers would seek asylum for economic reasons or resort to deceit. But we are also wrong to pass judgement against the hundreds of Australians who work in Border Security or the citizens of Nauru who have been accused of taking part in abuse without a fair investigation.

An Amnesty international activist who snuck into the detention camps has reported widespread and daily instances of assaults and violence, without any corroborating evidence. However, other independent observers and journalists including Chris Kenny have reported that despite a sense of despondency and uncertainty about their eventual settlement, women walk freely in small groups and catch buses on the island to English lessons. Many insisted their children felt safe. This is inconsistent with the extent of the narrative promulgated by sections of the media as well as inconsistent with the extent of ‘systematic abuse’ pushed by activists. Free healthcare is provided to the refugees by 75 medical professionals and the medical centre recently underwent a 27 million dollar reimbursement.

We cannot disprove all the claims and allegations which have been made. We also cannot prove Minister Dutton’s statement that some asylum seekers resort to self-immolation tactics because they feel it may increase their chances of eventually receiving asylum. But we should at least note that desperate individuals keen to seek a better future for their family would resort to desperate measures.

That is where the real problem arises – the issue of people being in detention limbo in the first place. These individuals and families face months of uncertainty as their claims are processed and this takes a strong mental toll on anyone.

Only the Coalition government has achieved its target of cutting the number of asylum seekers, including children, in detention which is now only a fraction of the atrocious numbers under the previous, incompetent Labor government’s border policies. The humane and fair solution is to encourage the most transparent path to asylum possible – legal channels. These ensure that we can take in the number of refugees we choose to as a nation and don’t have to put these individuals through the pain of a prolonged detention while we vet their credentials.

Europe is currently suffering the results of a misguided open-borders policy which has resulted in more than a million migrants risking their lives at sea and has resulted in the confirmed infiltration of members of terrorist organisations due to a failure to vet all of the new arrivals. The result has been heightened xenophobia and an even worse climate for genuine asylum seekers who are guilty only of trying to seek a better life under dire circumstances.

Let us push for more transparency and reporting of what goes on in our off-shore detention centres. Let’s also discuss how we can get kids out of detention faster by fast-tracking applications. But let us also learn our lessons from the rest of the world and continue one of the world’s most successful border protection policies.

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