Australia’s Refugee Policy Demonstrates Ignorance Towards the Rights Children

The Guardian and the Refugee Council of Australia (‘RCA’) has reported that the current processing regime emulated by Australian authorities has a destructive impact upon the physical and psychological well-being and safety of refugee children. With the RCA in particular noting that the environment of offshore processing is unsuitable and, point blank, dangerous. RCA’s media release, ‘Five years of suffering and abuse- Australia does not have the solution’ has reported that “children suffer terribly, with their being countless reports of assault, abuse (including sexual abuse) and exploitation.” To add to the hypocrisy of Australia’s extreme hard line stance on an essentially humanitarian issue, media reports have highlighted that Australian authorities choose to exercise blind sightedness, so as to uphold the tough attitude on refugees, even in the face of medical advice. The ramifications of such are multifaceted and profound, as Australia’s hard lined tactics operate to the cost of the dignity and safety of those living in arguably squalid and depraved conditions in offshore processing centres.

RCA’s has reacted very negatively to Australia’s current hard line stance, claiming that “there is nothing successful about the Australian model of offshore processing.” Such is informed by the human toll of the regime, that being that, those who have come to ours shores seeking a safe haven have been confined to a space in a foreign nation state, where their personal security is a risk everyday. To that end, the RCA is markedly critical of the financial burden that Australia has imposed on its’ own-self by such stubborn adherence to right wing rationale. The RCA labels “the Australian solution as an epic failure.”

As a signatory of the Refugee Convention it is our duty as a nation-state to live by the principles to which we so prescribe. Whilst this is clearly not the case, so as to protect such a vulnerable group of people, many of whom escaping from war torn countries from sustaining further trauma, it is important that Australian authorities act with good conscience in hand and with good faith towards their international commitments. Further, as a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, pursuant to which states much make decisions “in the best interest of the child (article 3),” it is paramount that the practice of separating families be annulled. The RCA media report reiterates the importance of such a move as “there are fathers who have never met their children.”

Doherty, writing for The Guardian, elucidates the urgency of the situation by exposing the severity of psychological distress that many minors experience. Here, Doherty highlights that in response to a 14 year old girl’s suicide attempt by self-immolation, Australian authorities eschewed from acknowledging the unavailability of adequate psychiatric care at Nauru. Fortunately, redress is available through the court system, through which “up to eight children have been moved from Nauru for medical treatment since 2014.”

As a developed nation-state, it is our responsibility to act with good conscience towards international obligations. As it stands, Australia’s hard lined policy stands in contravention of its international obligations. It is our responsibility to protect the rights and dignities of refugees and asylum seekers that come to our shores seeking refuge. The offshore processing regime, in my view, is unnecessary and operational in impediment to the protection of human dignities. The first step towards demarcating away from this regime and towards great human rights protection is to treat these children with dignity and respect.

Nat Kumar