The Federal Government is determined to stick to its policy of torturing innocent people to deter criminals. Apparently the only way to take power away from people smugglers is to ensure that perfectly legal asylum seekers who previously made it safely to Australia by boat are treated in the most barbaric way possible. In some kind of twisted Coalition logic, it asserts by its actions that the most effective way to prevent people drowning at sea is to torture those that survive.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton appears to understand that actions are more important than words, as does former Immigration Minister and current Treasurer, Scott Morrison. Both have made it clear that it’s not acceptable to simply intercept boats making their way to Australia, remove asylum seekers and detain the people smugglers. No, the only way to save lives is to detain and subject every man, woman and child to the cruellest, most inhumane treatment possible. The Coalition has a strong message for asylum seekers, “Dare to flee war, persecution or genocide, and we will make your lives so rotten you’ll beg to return to where you came from.”
According to the Coalition, there is nothing worse than drowning at sea. According to the actions of Dutton, Morrison, and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, arbitrary detention, torture, rape, sexual abuse, violent assaults, and denial of medical treatment are all better than drowning.
In some respects, they have a point. Death is final. It is the end. There is no return from death. Drowning really is a final outcome.
Torture, on the other hand, rape, sexual abuse, violent assaults, denial of medical treatment; none of these things results in immediate death. No, these things, continuously supported by the Australian Government by its lack of action, ensure that people stay alive; although not so much alive as a lingering, painful existence from which there is no escape. Asylum seekers who attempt to escape by ending their own lives, are subjected to more pain and torture.
It seems the Australian Government is determined to stop people drowning at all costs.
Based on the events of the past few years, the Government has demonstrated a number of things that it believes are better than drowning.
- Being bashed to death by security guards who are meant to protect you.
- Dying a slow, lingering death from septicaemia from an untreated foot infection.
- Housing a five month old baby in a stinking hot, rat-infested tent without access to appropriate formula, hygienic facilities to prepare food, and placing her mother in so much stress she can’t breastfeed properly.
- Being so suicidal you can’t be trusted to be left alone for five minutes with a lawyer or husband, but considered well enough to be flown to detention in Nauru.
- Depriving women of basic sanitary items and forcing them to ask male security guards for pads while blood clots run down their legs.
- Leaving a young child with a broken arm untreated for weeks.
- Being brutally raped as a 23 year old, and denied medical treatment for weeks, if not months, and forced to continue a pregnancy that is making you physically sick.
- Having medical treatment delayed after being brutally raped and attempting suicide.
- Young boys being attacked, beaten and robbed.
- The sexual abuse of children.
- Sending children who are suffering from serious mental health issues back to detention where they won’t have access to proper treatment and their condition will worsen.
- Waterboarding and being cable-tied to a bed and dropped from height.
- Dying after being denied medical treatment for two weeks.
Astoundingly, while on one hand declaring that the arbitrary and indefinite detention of asylum seekers is necessary to deter the people smugglers, and proudly boasting of its cruel policies, the Government’s main defence in a High Court challenge to offshore detention was that it has no control over the detention centres and besides, there is now no detention after the Nauruan Government coincidentally opened up the centre several days before the challenge was to be heard. This is not the first time the Government has changed the rules at the last minute to thwart any attempts to test the legality of the offshore detention policy and hold it accountable.
The Australian Government behaves as though what happens on Nauru is not Australia’s responsibility. It deliberately and publicly sends men, women and children, including tiny babies, into torturous conditions, yet steps back and says, “its not our problem.” It says the detention centre is not “controlled” by Australia.
The Government’s defence amounts to “it’s nothing to do with us”. At least in this respect the Government’s words and actions are consistent. It continues to fail to act on mounting evidence of appalling conditions for asylum seekers and refugees on the remote island prisons, despite Turnbull recently expressing “concern”, as though the barbaric treatment of innocent people is news to him.
The Government uses the harsh treatment of asylum seekers detained in a third world shithole to attempt to deter people lawfully seeking asylum. It actively sends people to Nauru and Manus Island, and uses tax payer money for the management of the facilities, visas, and the security of the detention centres, yet absolves itself of all responsibility.
The Forgotten Children Report from the Australian Human Rights Centre provides clear evidence of the abhorrent conditions of immigration detention.
The United Nations has found that Australia’s immigration policy and conditions in detention centres amounts to torture.
The Moss Report, commissioned by the Government itself, found that there is evidence of rapes, sexual assaults and drugs for sexual favours in the Australian run centre on Nauru.
A Senate Committee Inquiry found that the Nauru detention centre is not safe for children.
United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants cancelled a visit as the Government could not guarantee that people who spoke with him would not be prosecuted under the Border Force Act.
Despite ongoing criticism, the Government insists on promoting the same tired line that anything compassionate, humane and in line with the basic standards of human rights expected in a Western democracy will lead to more deaths in Australian waters.
It seems that it’s not the deaths the Government fears; it’s the method of death and the publicity surrounding it. Heart wrenching images of children washed up on beaches turns asylum seekers from illegal immigrants to be feared into humans who deserve care and help. Instead, the Government supports the slow, lingering, torturous death of innocent people in detention, which it does everything to hide, threatening two years jail for doctors, nurses, teachers and other professionals for publicly disclosing the appalling treatment of asylum seekers, including the sexual abuse of children.
“You’re going to die from a hunger strike protesting your inadequate treatment after being bashed in immigration detention? You shouldn’t have sought asylum by boat”, will be the next heartless press statement from Dutton. “If we relax our draconian policies, people might drown”.
Apparently anything is better than drowning.