This week we learnt that the human rights protection for asylum seekers in our former colony Papua New Guinea are more protected by the PNG constitution than they would be in Australia.
When the government introduced Operation Sovereign Borders in 2013, one of the key planks of the policy was secrecy. To ensure the success of the new bipartisan policy of inhumanity, it was seen as important that no-one could put faces and stories to those on the receiving end — and thereby realise the horror and illegality behind what was being perpetrated, or feel empathy for the victims.
I appreciated listening to their stories about family, their country, their landing on Christmas Island and their day-to-day life in the centre. I took men out of the centre three afternoons a week. They enjoyed experiencing the beauty of the island, finding coconuts and mangoes, sitting watching the ocean and families swimming, and observing the navy boat keeping guard.
“The report shows the effects of detention cause despair, anxiety and depression in children. And the effects last long after children are released into the community,”
“These findings are extremely disturbing and prove what human rights groups and mental health professionals have been telling the government for years: that detention is a dangerous place and is harmful to children.”
While those in the program are desperate to be released into the community on Bridging visas, release means limited or no casework support, no work rights, and no housing assistance, ultimately leaving people significantly worse off and more vulnerable.