In a newly released report on 17 October named Island of Despair: Australia’s ‘processing of refugees’, Amnesty International finds that Australia’s treatment of refugees on the island Nauru amounts to torture.

The report argues that the Australian offshore processing system is an elaborate and cruel system of abuse, establishing an “open-air prison designed to inflict as much suffering as necessary to stop some of the world’s most vulnerable people from trying to find safety in Australia”.

Currently 1,100 refugees and asylum seekers are held on Nauru, a tiny island of just 10,000 people some 3,000 miles off the Australian coast. Amnesty finds that refugees have been exposed to sexual abuse, neglect and poor healthcare. This comes only two months after the leaking of the so-called Nauru files, which exposed widespread abuse inflicted on children detained on Nauru.

Australia’s deterrence policy is not only minimizing protection and maximizing suffering, but is also extremely expensive, costing the Australian government nearly seven billion EUR over the past three years. Holding one person on Nauru costs the government AUD$ 573,000 (400,924 €) per year.

Anna Neistat, Amnesty International’s Senior Director for Research said that “The Australian government’s policy is the exact opposite of what countries should be pursuing. It is a model that minimizes protection and maximises harm.” Amnesty has repeatedly called on Australia to end this system where by deterrence depends on inflicting human suffering.

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