Press Release: Australian Senate Committee Recognises Breaches of Human Rights of Asylum Seekers Arriving by Sea Detained on Nauru
For Immediate Release
Human Rights at Sea has been following the investigations by the Australian Senate Committee concerning the detention of asylum seekers arriving by sea in the Nauru Regional Processing Centre.
On 31 August 2015 the Australian Senate Select Committee on the Recent Allegations relating to Conditions and Circumstances at the Regional Processing Centre in Nauru published its report: Taking responsibility: conditions and circumstances at Australia’s Regional Processing Centre in Nauru..
The Committee has found:
- The Regional Processing Centre (RPC) in Nauru is not a safe, adequate or appropriate environment for asylum seekers particularly women and children. The committee received evidence of abuse, traumatisation and mental illness.
- The continued transfer of children to Nauru, and detention of them in the RPC, is likely to breach Australia’s obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
- Australia’s purported reliance on the sovereignty and legal system of Nauru in the face of allegations of human rights abuses and serious crimes is a cynical and unjustifiable attempt to avoid accountability for a situation it created.
- The primary obligation for protecting the human rights of asylum seekers under international law and compliance with the Refugee Convention rests with Australia.
- The average processing time of asylum seekers is 402 days and a vacuum of information about their status and future is not acceptable.
- Wilson Security, who is responsible for providing a safe and secure environment for asylum seekers within the RPC, has a workplace culture which is inconsistent with its purpose.
- Evidence provided suggested that standards of living for asylum seekers in the RPC are unacceptably low in a range of areas, including exposure to the elements, lack of privacy, poor hygiene, insufficient access to water and sanitation and the provision of mouldy and rotten food.
Relevantly, it has recommended:
- Children be removed from detention.
- Mandatory reporting of sexual abuse, unreasonable use of force and assault.
- A full audit of all allegations of sexual abuse and other criminal conduct by the Immigration Department and Federal Police.
- Expansion of open centre arrangements.
- Improvements to living conditions including access to lighting, water, toilets, air conditioning, cooking facilities and communications.
- Implementation of an education plan for children on Nauru.
- Implementation of a model timeframe for refugee status determinations.
- Comprehensive drug and alcohol testing.
- Review of all complaints made against detention centre staff by the Immigration Ombudsman.
- Referral of conditions on Nauru to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee to report by December 2016.
Human Rights at Sea urges the Australian Government to adopt the recommendations of the committee. Implementation of these recommendations will go some way to increasing Australia’s compliance with international law including obligations to:
- Ensure access to fair and efficient procedures for the determination of refugee status.
- Treat asylum seekers in accordance with applicable international refugee and human rights law standards, for example, appropriate reception arrangements; access to health, education and basic services.
- Safeguard against arbitrary detention.
Human Rights at Sea Founder and CEO, David Hammond said: “The Australian Senate Committee has found, through corroborated evidence, what many States and NGOs hold to be true; that the detention of asylum seekers arriving by sea in sub-standard conditions on Nauru constitutes a breach of international human rights provisions and safeguards. We fully support the Senate Committee for highlighting these violations, for asserting the need for transparency and accountability and for making firm recommendations in order to rectify violations of human rights occurring on Nauru.
The Australian Government must now implement the recommendations of the Senate Committee. It is not justifiable to continue to systematically violate international human rights law, thereby eroding the weighting of the international rule of law.
We hope that the Senate Committee Report recommendations increase accountability and transparency of Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers and progresses implementation of a system of regional processing that does not rely on mandatory offshore detention of asylum seekers arriving by sea”.
For further background see HRAS Case Studies: