Just this morning, I was scrolling through my Newsfeed, and an article about asylum seekers caught my eye. It was the third one I’ve seen just this week. If this ridiculous amount of news coverage meant anything at all, something must have been up. I clicked into the article and saw that it was about the detention camps asylum seekers coming to Australia are kept in. The word ‘detention’ doesn’t exactly bring up memories of playgrounds and laughter for anyone, but it couldn’t be that bad, could it? Oh, how naïve I was. The photosets that followed in that article brought me close to tears, with mould growing on the tent walls and photos of innocent children looking ill due to malnourishment. Australia’s detention facilities and their treatment of asylum seekers is, put simply, absolutely horrific. Yet that’s merely a start to the twisted world of Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers, and it absolutely must be reformed immediately.
Of all the camps, off-shore detention facilities seem to have the worst reputation, and deservingly so. Away from the watchful eye of the Australian government, these camps often end up in the grey area between legal and illegal in the way they deal with their occupants. As of August this year, there were 1339 people being held in immigration detention off-shore, particularly in Nauru and Papua New Guinea. That’s 1339 mothers, fathers, children and friends who are subject to a never-ending cycle of harassment and secrecy. Amnesty International in an on-site study found that over 80 per cent of women in the facilities had fallen victim to sexual assault from the very staff who were supposed to be protecting them. This is somehow supposed to be acceptable? If these acts were inflicted upon a friend or a neighbour, we’d all be protesting against it, but why has a blind eye been turned on these poor individuals when they are the ones who need the attention most?
At the moment, off-shore detention camps seem to be half the issue. There’s an eternal limbo over who the responsibility of these camps really fall under: the island upon whose land the camp is built or the Australian government, who pays for and manages the camps. Currently, both parties seem content to die upon the hill they’ve set camp on, with neither wanting to take responsibility for the clear mistreatment. So, whose concern is it really? The UN’s special reporter on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau, has stated time and time again that the camps are wholly the responsibility of Australia, as they are the ones who provide for the entire process. Yet the government still seem to be denying these facts. So, what could a simple solution be? Domestic detention facilities. If the bulk of asylum seekers are held within the country in facilities similar to those already established in Villawood, Sydney and Yonga Hill, WA, the government will have no choice but to face the truth. Law enforcement in Australia is already strict as is, so these detention facilities will be guaranteed to fulfil their original purpose.
Asylum seekers have always faced a mixed reaction from the nation. Yet personal views are completely irrelevant once we see the horrible conditions these people are forced into at detention camps. These off-shore centres are places akin to people’s nightmares and immediate improvement is desperately needed. Domestic detention centres are one easy way to achieve this, and such ways of rehabilitation of the system need to be considered immediately. Only when I open my News app and I’m not immediately bombarded by dozens of articles around the mistreatment of asylum seekers will there be an acceptable degree of change.