6 November 2015

A new Amnesty International report found that in May and June 2015, the Australian authorities paid smugglers to return asylum seekers to Indonesia, without examining whether they would have faced risks of persecutions or serious abuses in the country of return. During the operations, asylum seekers faced abuses, including detention and ill-treatment. According to evidence-supported reports, Australia breached the UN protocol against smuggling of migrants and the prohibition on refoulement, thus violating asylum seekers’ human rights.

In May and June 2015, many asylum seekers, including children and a pregnant woman were returned to Indonesia and thus prevented from seeking asylum in Australia. Australian officials instructed and paid smugglers to put asylum seekers in overcrowded vessels with insufficient fuel. This placed asylum seekers and migrants in a  situation that endangered their lives.  Further human rights violations were witnessed by people detained in cells for several days, on board Australian ships. Many migrants and asylum seekers were denied access to medicine and adequate health care.

“When it comes to its treatment of those seeking asylum, Australia is becoming a lawless state,” said Anna Shea, Refugee Researcher at Amnesty International. “Australia must once and for all start taking its international obligations towards refugees seriously. All people seeking asylum deserve to have their claims fairly dealt with. And instead of continuing with turnbacks, Australia must engage in effective dialogue to improve regional protections for vulnerable populations in the Asia-Pacific region, and expand safe and legal routes for people to reach safety.” 

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This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 6 November 2015. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.