JRS condemns remarks by Minister for Immigration Peter Dutton

JRS condemns the remarks of the Minister for Immigration Peter Dutton, who has blamed refugee advocates and media organisations for the incidents, saying that they have encouraged asylum seekers and refugees to harm themselves.

The Jesuit Refugee Service Australia (JRS) welcomes the demand by the United Nations’ refugee agency (UNHCR) that Australia should immediately move the refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru to “humane conditions with adequate support and services”.

The UNHCR’s call came in the wake of the fatal self-immolation of a refugee, Omid Masoumali, at the Nauru refugee settlement last week, which was followed by a second tragic incident a few days later when a young Somali refugee on Nauru, Hodan Yasin, also set herself alight.

“These terrible events are the result of the uncertainty, chaos, and brutality of the situation the asylum seekers and refugees find themselves in, and they have been placed in these conditions against their will by the direct and deliberate actions of the Australian government,” said Fr Aloysious Mowe SJ, the Director of JRS.

JRS condemns the remarks of the Minister for Immigration Peter Dutton, who has blamed refugee advocates and media organisations for the incidents, saying that they have encouraged asylum seekers and refugees to harm themselves.

“If Minister Dutton has evidence that refugee advocates have encouraged self-harm, he should present his evidence and name those advocates. If he has no such evidence, then he is engaged in an unprincipled and vulgar smear campaign against refugee advocates and the media,” said Fr Mowe.

“The reality is that the Australian government is desperate to shift blame from the real culprits responsible for the self-harm incidents: those who have instituted and continue to maintain Australia’s offshore processing centres, which have been accurately called ‘factories for producing mental illness’.”

UNHCR has meticulously monitored the conditions on Nauru, making seven visits over the last five years. It points out that the “consensus among medical experts is that conditions of detention and offshore processing do immense damage to physical and mental health”.

Information to editors

The Jesuit Refugee Service is an international Catholic organisation with a mission to accompany, serve and advocate on behalf of forcibly displaced persons. With its headquarters based in Rome and with teams working in nearly 47 countries around the world, JRS provides education, health, social and other services to approximately 850,000 refugees and internally displaced persons, more than half of whom are women. JRS services are provided to refugees regardless of race, ethnic origin or religious beliefs.

For further information

Oliver White
Jesuit Refugee Service Australia
Tel: +61 2 9356 3888
Email: oliver.white@jrs.org.au
Twitter: @JRS_Aus

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