One of the largest exposé of leaked documents containing graphic incident reports of atrocities on the asylum seekers in Nauru was published by Australia’s Guardian early this month (August, 2016). It has made headlines globally.
More than 2000 reports of about 8000 pages provide a chilling choreography of assaults, sexual abuse, self-harm and mental torture on the interns.
Although children represented only 18% of the detainees, more than 51% of the incidents appertained to them.
These findings arise on the back of a damning report by Channel Nine’s ‘Four Corners Programme’ that scripted the brutality meted to aboriginal juvenile detainees in Northern Territory.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had no option but to announce a Royal Commission to enquire into these allegations, but confined it to the Northern Territory whereas there were equally credible reports of abuse in other parts of the country.
The Nauru Files
The staff incident reports, cumulatively called the ‘Nauru Files’ comprise a cohort of banality such as death threats, sexual favours, physical exposures, snapping of voyeuristic pictures, self-harm and assaults.
They profile the indignation, desperation, molestation and exploitation suffered by the defenceless detainees.
The inhuman living conditions would appear to be identical with the detainees at Manus Island in Papua New Guinea (PNG). Reportedly, there are 442 asylum seekers in Nauru and 854 at Manus is inflicting an annual expenditure of A$ 1.2 billion.
It is estimated that the average cost of each detainee over the four years was approximately A$ 1 million.
But the worst revelation refers to the deliberate failure of the governmental bureaucracy to respond to cases of abuse.
In my last article (Indian Newslink, June 1, 2016), I had written that Australia had contracted out its national and international obligations by detaining almost indefinitely the asylum seekers in their ‘client states’ such as PNG and Nauru, both third world island nations. This callous policy has been a subject of constant criticism by the United Nations and other international organisations.
Further, by contracting out inspectorial and safety services to Broadspectrum (previously known as Transfield Services) and its sub-contractor Wilson Security, Australia has absolved itself from its governing role.
In fact, like some known business houses and politicians, Wilson Security headquartered in a safe haven does not have to pay the required tax in Australia.
In this regard, the Company is in the same league as the Australian Prime Minister himself.
No Passion or Compassion
Following the publication of Nauru files, 26 former ‘Save the Children’ workers and more than 1800 university academics across Australia petitioned the Government to end rigorous refugee regime. These pleadings don’t matter.
What has prompted Australia to abandon compassion and passion for humanity in favour of an iron-clad policy of blockade on refugee boats, denial of entry of the asylum seekers into Australia, detaining them indefinitely in off-shore detention centres under unchecked horrific conditions, silencing the refugee related critics and sanctioning billions of dollars of taxpayers till?
Undoubtedly, the policy has a broad mainstream support of the major two parties and is being championed by minor extremist fringe parties and interest groups. The return of Pauline Hanson would further galvanise the political and policy divide. Ironically, “stop the boats” is a political mantra in Australia.
Resulting from the PNG High Court ruling that the detention of refugees at Manus was illegal, Australia has now agreed to shut the despicable ghetto by April, 2017. There are now fervent pleas led by the Amnesty International for the refugees to be resettled in Australia. Would Australia show some mercy?
The refugee policy is a failure in humanitarian, fiscal and diplomatic terms.
The Australian mainstream mindset would not allow any modification of the creed. It is a sad commentary, but I venture to hazard a guess that some would be financially induced to return home or settled in another developing country and the remaining refugees would be transferred to the notorious confines of the Christmas Island.
Globally, the scale of distribution of refugees amongst the nations is pathetic. The six wealthiest countries, US, China, Japan, France and UK, which between them account for 60% of the world economy, host only 9% of the refugees (Oxfam Report).
In contrast, more than 50% of world’s refugees (about 12 million) live in Jordon, Turkey, Palestine, Pakistan, Lebanon and South Africa despite these countries making up only 2% of the world economy.
Once again, there is no level playing field. While the refugee crisis is a challenging problem of the new millennium, it is morally reprehensible that poorer countries and poorer people shoulder bulk of the responsibility for which they are not responsible.
The report card of the ‘UNHCR Global Trends 2015’ indicates that a record of more than 65 million people left their home due to violence, war and human rights violations, most of which was inflicted by the Western powers and their cohorts in the Middle East and Northern Africa.
The refugee deal between the EU and Turkey in March, 2016 and the continuing Australian policy of dumping refugees in poorer ‘client’ countries are evidence of the deflection of their moral compass.
Mahendra Sukhdeo is a writer, researcher and author of ‘Aryan Avatars.’ The second edition of the book has been printed by the University of the South Pacific and is available through its bookstore. The digital edition can be accessed through ‘Smashwords.’
Photo Caption: The expose of the Guardian (with this photograph) has ruffled feathers in Australia.