Australia’s Crime Against Humanity: Refugee Detention Centers

In refugee detention centers close to its shore and far from the public eye, Australia is committing atrocious crimes against humanity. Not only on Christmas Island, Manus Island, and Nauru, there are still at least 9 operating detention centers on and offshore designed to traumatize refugees and asylum seekers in the name of security deterrence. These acts of torture, physical and sexual assault, and cruelty cannot be justified as a border control, as it started and is worsening as a humanitarian crisis.

A recent leak of documents, reported by the Guardian, explicitly recorded the Manus Island’s detention camp and security contractor Wilson’s plan to make refugee lives as difficult as possible. An anonymous detainee directly pleaded to the Australian people through the Guardian, “We are educated people… What did we do to deserve your government to kill us? Please help us.” People living in the detention centers are going on hunger strikes and taking forms of a riot to protest against the inhospitable living conditions, denial of basic human needs and medicinal care.

By October 31, the refugee detention center on Manus Island is scheduled to shut down. By making the camp as inhospitable as possible and forcefully closing it down, the Australian government is aggressively pushing refugees to the Australian-built East Lorengau Refugee Transit Center (ELRTC) on the outskirt of the Manus province’s main town. The government’s actions reveal its motive to resettle refugees into Papua New Guinea, and persuade individuals to abandon their claim to protection and return home where they face fear of execution.

The transfer of refugees to ELRTC (closer to the local community) will make them much more vulnerable as there is a strong and ongoing sense of discontent from the Papua New Guinea communities towards the forced refugee settlement. Refugees have expressed that their lives feel constantly threatened with the fear of being attacked on a day-to-day basis, the Guardian reports.

With the influence of malicious intentions, it is impossible to genuinely provide security and safety for the most vulnerable individuals in today’s political context. Australia – the first country to introduce the concept of indefinite detention – is committing ongoing crimes against humanity while keeping the public unaware. It is in our hands to speak out for and with these individuals who are entitled to treatment and respect as fellow human beings.

Lina Na Gyoung Lee