Friday, September 07, 2007

'Australia's very own Devil's Island'

Arnold Zable, writing in The Age, likens the situation of asylum seekers on Nauru to the infamous Devil's Island prison colony:

"Australia remains a signatory to the 1951 UN refugee conventions, which enshrined the search for asylum as a basic human right. These conventions emerged after World War II. The conventions are based on the hard-won understanding that the right to seek refuge is one of the foundations of a civilised society.

This was understood by seafaring peoples who developed codes for the treatment of strangers who washed up on their shores. First, the stranger is greeted and fed, and given a roof over their head, and only then is he asked questions.

These societies understood that with one shift in the wind, the situation could be reversed.

Offshore processing is a cynical backdoor method of tearing up international treaties to which we are signatories. It is alarming that it has taken a hunger strike to bring these issues back into the public domain. For asylum seekers, already traumatised and vulnerable, Nauru is Australia's very own Devil's Island. The centre should be closed down and remembered as a place where human rights were grossly denied, and the bonds of civility cut asunder."

The abuses perpetrated in our name need to be brought into the open light so that they will not be repeated.

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