Despite asylum seeker processing centres being set up on Nauru and Manus Island with Australian money and resources, the Australian Human Rights Commissioner, Gillian Triggs, has been advised by the Solicitor-General, the Federal Government’s top legal advisor, that she does not have the right to visit either island.
The advice given to Prof Triggs’ office states that her jurisdiction is only over people on Australian soil and because Nauru and Manus Island are not part of Australia, she cannot gain access to asylum seekers to address their complaints. Instead, she has to consider and act on asylum seeker complaints from Australia without first-hand knowledge.
This debacle has occurred just one month after the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) visited, and released reports about both island processing centres, finding significant legal and operational inadequacies which were “deeply concerning”.
The Federal Government placed all their eggs in one basket with the Malaysian swap deal. When it failed, due to being ruled unlawful in late 2011, the government took a year to react by re-opening Nauru and Manus Island to receive asylum seekers.
After reading the UNHCR report into both islands, the conditions sound suitable for short-term detention, but not years of detention. Asylum seekers have many rights and it is absurd that the Australian Human Rights Commissioner is not allowed to protect and improve conditions for individuals seeking asylum who are being processed in off-shore Australian detention centres. The Federal Government should be approaching the governments of Papua New Guinea and Nauru to grant Gillian Triggs permission to hear the complaints of asylum seekers in-person and to view the conditions for herself.
What seems to be the most concerning issue, for both the asylum seekers and the general public, is the indefinite timeframe being imposed on asylum seekers held on the islands and the time it takes for claims to be processed. I cannot fathom how it could take more than a few months to research and process the majority of asylum seeker claims. The Federal Government needs to review it’s current procedures and enforce a timeframe for processing every claim.
Should the Australian Human Rights Commissioner be granted access to Nauru and Manus Island to address the complaints of asylum seekers?
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