Greens urge NZ intervention on Australian offshore detainees

The Green Party has urged the government to consider resettling refugees and asylum seekers from Australia's offshore detention centres in Papua New Guinea and Nauru.

Australia’s controversial offshore detention policy for asylum seekers has come under increased international pressure this year due to legal challenges and leaked documents detailing abuses at the facilities.  

There were 543 asylum seekers (including 70 children) in detention in Nauru and 926 adult asylum seekers in detention on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea as of the 30th of November, 2015, according to the Australian Human Rights Commission.

“Every day that these camps remain open is another day that people are living in limbo, facing abuse by guards and inhumane living conditions,” says Green Party human rights spokesperson Marama Davidson.

“We have known since early 2015 that Australia is violating torture laws by holding asylum seekers in dangerous and violent conditions on Manus Island, and this week we heard in horrific detail the abuse of women and children in Nauru.”

In April, Papua New Guinea’s Supreme Court ruled that the Manus Island detention centre was unconstitutional. 

This month U.K. newspaper The Guardian published the Nauru Files, a collection of more than 2,000 leaked documents from the Nauru detention centre which exposed inhumane conditions, systemic sexual and physical abuse and numerous instances of self-harm at the site.  

The Manus Island facility has also faced ongoing allegations of sexual assault, beatings, torture, drug abuse, hygiene concerns and multiple reports of self-harm and attempted suicide.  Detainees released in Papua New Guinea have reported theft, beatings and intimidation from locals and in some cases have voluntarily returned to the detention facilities for their safety.

Australia and Papua New Guinea confirmed yesterday that the Manus Island detention centre will close but offered no details on when, or what will happen to the people currently detained there.

The Green Party has called for New Zealand to play a role in helping the affected asylum seekers.  

“New Zealanders have shown repeatedly that they are compassionate people who want to do their bit to help people fleeing persecution and conflict”, says Davidson, “John Key should be making it clear to Malcolm Turnbull that we will be part of a humane solution by offering to resettle as many people as we are able to, and give them somewhere safe to call home.”

Both New Zealand and Australia are signatories to the 1951 Refugee Convention which gives individuals the right to seek asylum in foreign countries if they face serious threats to their life or freedom in their country of origin. 

In June, the National government announced it would raise New Zealand’s refugee quota from 750 to 1,000 per year by 2018.  There are currently more than 60 million refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced people worldwide.