Australia Protest

Australian Prime Minister stands up against a recent report filed by the UN against his country’s use of torture within its immigration system

In a series of surprising remarks, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has insisted that Australia and its citizens are tired of being lectured by the United Nations on its immigration policies. Such policies regard those of its torture methods that are supposedly used in the country’s camps which house illegal immigrants and asylum seekers that flee to Australian shores by boat.

A special report that was conducted by Juan Mendez – a special rapporteur on torture – found that Australia is largely in breach of its international obligations to the health and wellbeing of asylum seekers. The report states that Abbots government is “violating the rights of asylum seekers on multiple fronts under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.” (Lisa Cox, The Sunday Morning Herald).

Particular attention has been turned to the conditions and techniques practised on Manus Island. The detention centre which is located on an island just off the coast of Papa New Guinea has been linked with the proposed deportation and excessive torture of two groups of Sri Lankan and Tamil asylum seekers.

Abbott’s response to such accusation from the UN have been deemed extraordinary by the world’s media. Earlier this week he attacked the UN and said its representatives would have “a lot more credibility if they were to give some credit to the Australian government” for stopping boat arrivals.

He continued, “I really think Australians are sick of being lectured to by the United Nations, particularly, particularly given that we have stopped the boats, and by stopping the boats, we have ended the deaths at sea,” Mr Abbott said.

“The most humanitarian, the most decent, the most compassionate thing you can do is stop these boats because hundreds, we think about 1200 in fact, drowned at sea during the flourishing of the people smuggling trade under the former government.”

In response to Abbots remarks, the Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said that the government “rejects the views of the special rapporteur that the treatment of illegal maritime arrivals in detention breaches international conventions”.

He continued, “Australia is meeting all its international obligations and with other regional nations provides a range of services to people who have attempted to enter Australia illegally.”

With the recent events of the UN report and the remarks of Abbott and officials within his Government, significant attention has been drawn to Australia and its immigration policies. Upon entering Australia as an asylum seeker, the majority are sent to detention camps such as Christmas Island or Manus Island – the one criticized in the UN report. Here they are sheltered for a significant amount of time, many still being forced to stay even when their asylum seeker citizenship is granted. Yet the number of successfully received immigrants is extremely rare, with much of the international community criticizing Australia for their thin numbers. Over 37 years Australia has received a total of 69,445 asylum seekers. When compared to the 67,400 that Germany has received during the first six months of last year, Australian efforts appear extremely minimal.

However, Mr Abbott upholds his Government’s principles as he said the best thing the government could do to “uphold the universal decencies of mankind” was to stop boat arrivals.

“And that’s exactly what we’ve done,” he said.

Izzy Lyons, Correspondent (Politics)

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