There are multiple detention centres in the northern parts of Australia and offshore. Refugees are vulnerable people who have fled their respective countries to escape war and oppression. Why should they be punished for this by being put into isolated, inadequate, and non-secure facilities that frankly an Australian citizen or visitor would not be subjected to? There have also been measures put in place to ensure that it is extremely difficult for any refugee advocates, such as lawyers or journalists to visit the detention centres.
There have been many examples of when refugees have been subjected to terrible treatment. Firstly, there have been many cases of sexual abuse to the detainees. Secondly, the Australian Department of Immigration delayed an important treatment for Hamid Khazaei, which caused his death. Thirdly, treatment for mentally ill people is delayed. For example, people, such as the man who committed suicide in April 2016 by setting himself on fire in Nauru as he did not get the help he needed.
The Sydney Morning Herald stated that Australia’s detention centres can easily be compared to concentration camps in Nazi Germany from the 1930s, which were designed to separate the unaccepted groups from the rest of the society. Those camps were very secretive and many citizens of Germany had no knowledge of the harsh, disgusting conditions the detainees “lived” in. This is the same situation with the Australian detention centres, they are designed for refugees to live in for certain periods of time (some people for more than three years) until they are properly assessed on whether they can enter the country or not, and hardly any Australians realize how harsh the environments are that these people live in, because everything about them is so secretive.
Many people around the world are realizing how terrible detention centres can be when they read about detention centres in Greece, UK, and other places overseas, but Australians do not realize the same issue is occurring so close to home.
The reality of the living conditions in these centres are that they are usually in places that suffer severe high temperatures like northern Australia, which have limited air-conditioning, the facilities are inadequate, the guards treat the detainees like animals rather than humans, and to top it all off, the detainees are physically and verbally abused on a regular basis. The most horrific part of it all is that the “Nauru Files,” which were recently published by The Guardian, contained 2,000 reports from teachers, counselors, and social workers who recently visited the Nauru centre that included assaults, sexual abuse, child abuse, and harsh living conditions that children have suffered.
So the question is, why should these people be subjected to these conditions when they might be outstanding people who could make Australia great, but, instead they are being judged before they are given a chance for their refugee status to be assessed?
This is not just a terrible situation for the detainees, there is $1.2 billion a year of Australian taxpayer money funding these detention centres from hell. Keep in mind you can quadruple the amount spent on Australia’s declining education standards with this amount of money. The question we should all be asking ourselves is where is this vast amount of money going to when the detainees are living in these conditions?
17 detention centres have been closed in Australia within the past year, but that is still not good enough. The centres that still exist should be improved with fewer threats to whistle-blowers, and easier access by key advocates and the government should take offers from other countries, such as New Zealand to reduce the number of refugees being held in the Australian centres. The $1.2 billion funding towards these detention centres should also be much better spent than it currently is. Australian taxpayers should be able to see their money being used to improve facilities for people who will possibly become their next-door neighbours, co-workers or friends in the future. Turnbull (Australia’s current Prime Minister) and fellow members of the Australian government should also not be blaming other people for what is happening, such as the previous government and refugee advocates, instead, they should be taking responsibility for what is occurring. Turnbull is putting the blame onto advocates by stating that “it is advocates that are causing more to self-harm, as they are giving them a false sense of hope.”
It is ironic what is happening considering that Australia was the first to sign the Refugee Convention. The Refugee Convention was signed in 1951 by 145 state parties and is the key legal document of the United Nations Refugee Agency, which states that a refugee should not be forced to return to a country where they face serious threats regarding their rights, lives, and freedom. What has happened over the last 70 years that has lead Australia to not care about refugees anymore?
The good news is that with a bit of time, empathy, sympathy, money, and effort things can be improved in Australia’s detention centres. The first step would be to provide better quality living conditions by providing extra air-conditioning and upgrading the fixtures and fittings in the facilities. The second step would be to ensure a lot more ethical staff are monitoring what goes on in the facilities, and take steps to find and punish the offenders causing the physical and verbal abuse of innocent detainees. Also, spending money and putting in surveillance cameras that are in most public places today would help to significantly reduce the violence and sexual assaults that go on. A third way to help the situation would be to provide Australians with a lot more awareness about what is going on in their backyard. Some ways to do this would be to provide more news articles on the matter, and by having organizations promote the issue. Another way would be to add a topic about immigration and detention centres to the Australian curriculum, as well as having people provide many presentations on the issues. A fourth way would be to get law firms to complete cases on detention centres and get legislation passed that allows better protection and rights for refugees held in Australian detention centres. A final way to help the situation would be to fight for the government to not threaten whistle-blowers who try to provide information on the matter, and to make the issues more “open” and less secretive.
It is up to the citizens of countries around the world to ensure that these issues are rectified, and to stop the dehumanization of refugees. There is plenty that people can do to help and these avenues need to be explored soon. It is better later than never, so if you care about what is happening, start helping to provide justice today.