Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Human rights in Australia: Time to review mandatory detention of asylum seekers

ABC news reports "Australia's human rights commissioner Graeme Innes is urging the Federal Government not to use the new immigration detention centre on Christmas Island."

Australia continues to disregard human rights in the treatment of asylum seekers. The government is detaining new arrivals on Christmas Island in a facility that has the hallmarks of a prison.

The usual suspects come out of the woodwork to brand these people 'queue jumpers' etc, to justify their treatment as criminals or 'illegals'. We should have a clear position on this question, requiring the government to treat new arrivals humanely and to counter attempts by politicians, media and other commentators to demonize them for political and other purposes.

The ghost of the Pacific Solution and the shop of horrors that was the Howard Govt's refugee program still lingers in the corridors of power and will not be exorcised until these horrors are revealed and the true mentality behind their prosecution is exposed.

It is time for the ALP to review its mandatory detention policy and wring the necessary changes. A public information program to explain the reasoning behind the changes, including Australia's obligations under international refugee and human rights instruments, could usher a new awareness of our collective standing and responsibility as a defender of human rights.