The Commonwealth Ombudsman tabled 297 reviews in Parliament throughout 2012 pursuant to s 486O of the Migration Act. This represents a six-fold increase on the 52 reviews tabled in 2011. A further 66 reviews were tabled in March 2013.
Of the 2012 reviews, 184 (61%) were asylum seekers who had been in immigration detention for two years or more. Others were suspected or convicted of people smuggling offences. 42 of the 66 reviews tabled in March 2013 related to asylum seekers.
96 asylum seekers were still in detention facilities at the time of their review, and these people were far more likely to suffer from detention-induced or –exacerbated mental health issues.
80% of asylum seekers reviewed suffered from mental health problems.
68% of asylum seekers reviewed suffered from mental health problems as a direct result of, or exacerbated significantly by their detention.
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The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) released its immigration detention statistics for January 2013 today. Here are some key figures:
- 7875 people were in some form of detention. This is one of the highest numbers since 1990, and marks the return from a spike in numbers late last year.
- Of this number, 2178 people were in community detention.
- There are 1184 people less in detention than the statistics reported in December 2012.
- Most asylum seekers (3348 ppl - 42%) had spent between 92 and 182 days in detention.
- 1000 children were in some form of immigration detention, 902 of which were in alternative places of detention.
- This is the fourth highest number of children in detention at one time since July 2010.
- 448 people had spent spent 730 days or more in detention.
- The average period in detention was 124 days.
- 90% of people had been in detention under 100 days.
- Most asylum seekers in detention come from Sri Lanka, Iran and Afghanistan
To find out more, have a look at the statistics for yourself at the DIAC website
Detainees at Manus Island have told advocates that they are facing their third severe water shortage since offshore processing recommenced in August last year. Because there are no backup systems in place, simple problems like generators not working or a power line being cut can mean asylum seekers cannot flush toilets, wash clothes, have showers or clean their hands.
HRP warned of the problems of water shortages late last year, and released a report on asylum seeker access to water
at regional processing centres in January 2013.
Australia is violating the right to drinking water and sanitation, and the right to health of asylum seekers at Manus Island.
In the week ending 16/17 March, HRP has submitted three freedom of information (FOI) requests to DIAC. We've asked for:
- All research conducted that led to the 'Don't Be Sorry' advertising campaign to prevent asylum seekers coming to Australia by boat;
- Information about water supply systems, as well as backup systems and contingencies in place at Nauru and Manus Island Regional Processing Centres; and
- Information about malaria at the Manus Island RPC, including: studies and research undertaken; preventative strategies in place; medications used; information provided to asylum seekers regarding their medical treatment and prevention options; specialist treatment available for pregnant women and small children; and whether Australia is providing malaria treatment programs to indigenous Manus Islanders in the area, of whom 94% have the disease.
If you'd like to see a full copy of any of these requests, or would like to be informed of substantive replies from the Department, please contact us
According to widespread reports, six pregnant women were airlifted from Manus Island detention centre to Inverbrackie IDC on Thursday 14 March. No details have been released by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.
HRP suspects that the women have been transferred, as it is medically unadvisable to treat pregnant patients with anti-malarial medication. HRP has obtained information from Manus Island detainees that suggests Malarone is being used to prevent malaria for most detainees. This would make sense, as Malarone is particularly effective against P. falciparum malaria that is resistant to some other courses of treatment. Manus Island has an 80% infection rate of P falciparum malaria. According to product warnings
, Malarone cannot be used by women who are pregnant or who are breastfeeding a child under 5kg.
The government should never have transferred pregnant women or small children to Manus Island, where the risk of contracting malaria is 'intense' according to the World Health Organisation's 2011 World Malaria Report. To remove these women now is to admit that the risk of malaria is unacceptable, and is not adequately controlled by anti-malarial medication and other precautionary measures.
We ask the government to explain why these women were transferred to the Australian mainland, yet no one else was. Why is the risk unacceptable for pregnant women, but acceptable for other women, as well as men and children detained at Manus Island?
HRP is proud to support the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre's Right to Work campaign
. Please see the attached media release for more information.
Wendy Bacon's new article in the New Matilda explores problems with access to water at the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre that detains asylum seekers who have sought protection in Australia since August 14 last year under the 'no advantage' principle. Part of the blame must go to G4S, the 'world's third worst company' that runs the centre, but the problem is deeper than a mere contractual failure. The right to water is a fundamental human right, and a lack of access to clean water could well be a violation of Australia's international law obligations. This post explores developments in the two months since HRP's Water Report
"When the decision was made to reopen Manus, the Australian Government knew that there was no fresh water. This had been one of many serious problems with the camp when it operated for two years under the Howard government. So it is not surprising that there have been continual complaints about the supply and quality of water since the camp reopened."
'The World's 'Third Worst' Firm Runs Manus', New Matilda, 7 March 2013
The Australian Government's position is that conditions are acceptable and comply with human rights standards, however this is clearly not the case. At least twice since the Manus Island detention centre opened late last year, the osmosis water filtration system that supplies water to the centre has broken down, resulting in extended periods where no fresh water was available for hygiene and sanitation. During these periods, water curfews have meant that toilets do not flush for large parts of the day, and detainees do not have enough water to keep themselves or their clothes clean. The only drinking water available to detainees is bottled water that is flown in on a regular basis, however this creates significant amounts of waste and is both unreliable and unsustainable in the long-term.
Minister Brendan O'Connor's statement that conditions are 'adequate' for a 'temporary facility' is inaccurate and misleading. First, the UNHCR has stated in unambiguous terms that conditions are 'harsh or oppressive', and all other human rights advocates who have commented agree with the HCR's analysis. Photo evidence and testimony from asylum seekers detained at Manus Island confirms sub-standard conditions. Second, the facility is not temporary according to the government's Memorandum of Understanding with PNG, and this statement is inconsistent with the policy of 'no advantage'.
Photo: Manus Island detainees
Legal responsibility for protecting the right to water rests with Australia, despite its attempts to 'contract out' this role to G4S. The right to water is a fundamental human right, which is protected by Article 12 of the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as a fundamental determinant of the right to health.
The lack of adequate water and sanitation at Manus Island breach Australia's human rights obligations, and even fall short of the minimum standards for human dignity as set out in the Sphere Project Handbook. The Australian Human Rights Commission has recently been denied permission to visit the Manus Island facility, and the Immigration Ombudsman is still considering its authority to investigate complaints. Both of these organisations have performed this function in identical circumstances in the past, which indicates the government is intentionally blocking oversight of detention conditions in order to hide human rights violations.
The government and DIAC refuse to respond to questions about backup water systems to guarantee supply to asylum seekers. HRP believes this is because no backup systems are in place.
HRP is currently investigating possible breaches of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) prohibition on torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment in relation this violation of the right to water. For more information, please contact the HRP Human Rights Advocacy team
Minister for Education Peter Collier responded to HRP's concerns about asylum seeker children being denied access to education in Western Australia, and frankly, his response was disappointing.
Put simply, Minister Collier asserted that the WA Government knew of the problem, was concerned at the effects, and eager to find a solution. But had done nothing to fix it. Mr Collier then proceeded to blame the Federal Government for failing to act, despite WA's Constitutional responsibility for the provision of education.
You can read his response for yourself here
HRP wrote back to the Minister this morning. In our response, we tell the WA Government that its inaction is inexcusable, and that their failure to take steps to rectify the problem constitutes an ongoing violation of the fundamental human right to education, as well as a possible breach of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975
This kind of fob-off is unacceptable.
A Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) report on infrastructure at Nauru, published internally in January 2012, reveals the government knew it would be violating its international human rights obligations by sending refugees to be processed there.
The report finds the Topside site less suitable than the State House site for many reasons, including land devastation due to phosphate mining, poor facilities and low capacity. But the biggest problem at Topside is water and sanitation.
"Major issues include no ablution blocks, no permanent water supply, no shade, no recreational facilities, and no operating waste water treatment plant."
The State House site has access to all these facilities, a higher capacity, and is described as more comfortable for detainees.
The government's election to use Topside over the better-positioned State House site violates Australia's responsibility to act in good faith to fulfil its international human rights obligations.
Humanitarian Research Partners' report on access to water
for transferees at Nauru and Manus Island details the Australian Government's violations of the rights to water and health. This leaked DIAC document shows the government was fully aware of the human rights implications of its actions before any decision had been made.
Treated water at the Nauru RPC is described as 'salty and brackish', and leads to skin irritations. Amnesty International even reported that detainees prefer to shower in monsoonal rain rather than in the ablutions because of this problem. Amnesty also reported that between September and November 2012, the Australian government air freighted over 400 000 bottles of water into Nauru to prevent detainee dehydration. Obviously, access to water is a serious problem at Nauru.
HRP condemns the government's actions, and calls on it to provide details of remedial action taken to address access to adequate and safe drinking water and sanitation, and other issues raised in this internal report, at the Nauru regional processing centre.
Asylum Seeker Resource Centre twitter feed @DetentionCount
tweets every incident of harm to asylum seekers in Australian-run immigration detention facilities. On 27 January @DetentionCount tweeted that a 10 year-old girl at Manus Regional Processing Centre (RPC) was experiencing symptoms of malaria.
Think we're jumping to conclusions? Unfortunately, it's extremely likely this information is accurate.
Why? Manus Islanders are almost all infected with malaria. In fact, according to the World Health Organization's Malaria Report 2011, 94% of the island population is infected and transfer rates are described as 'intense'. 80% of the population who have a form of malaria caused by the P. falciparum
mosquito that is untreatable by modern medicine. These figures were highlighted to government in September last year
In late December 2012 photos emerged
of the Manus Island processing centre, with adults and children alike sleeping outside to escape the brutal heat of demountable tin dongas with no protection from mosquitos. Although DIAC has told the media
that anti-malaria exposure drugs are offered to asylum seekers, those drugs are ineffective long-term solutions to such high levels of malaria exposure.
It's devastating, but it was only a matter of time before the first asylum seeker was infected with malaria. If a child has contracted malaria at Manus Island RPC, this is clear evidence that Australia is violating the right to health of asylum seekers, rights of the child, and the prohibition on cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment