While the offshore detention policy is being scrapped, campaigners say the ‘dark chapter’ won’t end until the last refugees leave PNG.
Last refugee held on Pacific island Nauru Australia’s notorious offshore detention policy was evacuated to Australia, according to refugee advocacy groups.
The man arrived in Australia on Saturday night, after the government of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, elected in 2022, said it would end a policy that has been in place for more than 10 years.
Jana Favero, director of advocacy at the Refugee Resource Center, said: “Over the past decade, our government has stood by and witnessed abuse, assault, abandonment, harm, and suffering in offshore detention. “Men, women and children seek safety and protection, but we deport them for political purposes. We are grateful that the Albanese government took action and evacuated the last remaining refugees from Nauru. A painful chapter is over.”
Australia resumed sending asylum-seekers to Nauru in 2013 under a previously abandoned offshore detention policy deemed necessary to stop people arriving in Australia in small boats. Such people who come, who are also imprisoned in Papua New Guinea (PNG)be told they will never have the right to settle in Australia even if they are shown to have a valid claim of protection.
Refugee groups say about 3,127 people have been sent to Nauru and PNG with various physical and mental health problems due to prolonged detention and separation from their families. The policy has been widely condemned by refugee advocates, rights groups and the United Nations.
Some families forced to separate under a plan that brought their case to the United Nations.
A short-term medical evacuation program has brought some people to Australia while others have found permanent housing in other countries, including New Zealand and the United States. The rest were sent back to the countries they had fled.
About 80 people remain in PNG, and advocacy groups say the government needs to address their situation as well.
“Having spent billions of dollars keeping people in PNG, the Australian Government cannot just leave them there. Many people need vital medical support – all need the option of coming to Australia while resettlement options are found,” said Marie Hapke, convenor of the Australian Refugee Action Network, in a statement. declare.
Offshore processing first began more than 20 years ago after an Indonesian fishing boat carrying more than 400 refugees and asylum seekers crashed en route to Christmas Island, a territory of the Philippines. Australia south of Java, and the crew of a Norwegian container ship – Tampa – came to their rescue.
The stalemate occurred after Tampa’s crew requested to dock on Christmas Island and the Australian government asked them to return to Indonesia.
Then Prime Minister John Howard, a conservative, introduced the ‘Pacific Solution’ to stop this group of people from coming to Australia and brokered a deal with Nauru to get those rescued by Tampa.
The policy was repealed in 2007 following an election that brought the Labor government to power but was reinstated by another Labor government in 2013 as boat arrivals began to increase and elections took hold. upcoming election.
While Albanese has again signaled a break with the policy, his government has also said it will continue to maintain offshore detention facilities in Nauru as a “backup” at a cost of millions of dollars. Australia every year.
Ian Rintoul of the Refugee Action Coalition said: “The history of offshore detention and human rights abuses in Nauru will forever tarnish the records of both sides in Australian politics. “Even though they committed no crime, the refugees sent to Nauru lost 10 years of their lives. As long as Nauru is ‘open’ and the refugees remain in limbo in PNG, the dark chapter of offshore detention will not be closed at last.