Editorial – The Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs is sitting this week and is looking into the incident at the Manus Island Detention Centre that went from16 February to the 18th of February which resulted in the death of one asylum seeker. What is becoming clear from it is that the Australian Government has a duty of care to Asylum Seekers in mandatory detention.
No matter what a person thinks of how an asylum seeker came to Australia or even if they are legal it doesn’t diminish the fact that the Australian government has a duty of care to those that are in its detention.
In a submission to the committee the Civil Liberties Australia brought this to the forefront and made the point that “The Australian Government has obligations and responsibilities toward asylum seekers which include the right not to be arbitrarily detained. These rights are articulated in international documents to which Australia is a signatory and include the International Covenant On Civil And Political Rights (ICCPR)”
Again and again mandatory detention of asylum seekers has caused many to suffer from mental health problems which include depression post traumatic stress disorder and anxiety. All of these can be laid at the feet of the Australian government. It doesn’t matter which party is in government, the government still has a duty of care towards asylum seekers. Some asylum seekers have also been sexual assaulted, most recently a teenage boy was a victim some have also been raped. The Human Rights Committee (UNHCR) has also sated that the mandatory detention of asylum seekers is cruel and inhumane.
As consumers we like to buy free range eggs because we don’t like the idea that the hens are caged up, we want them to be free. Caged hens also exhibit signs of stress. The same needs to be applied to a human being who has rights.
The government can not for one moment try to sweep this issue under the rug by distancing itself from the process. It doesn’t matter that they are offshoring the process to Manus or possible Cambodia, which has an appalling track record when it comes to human rights, the government still has a duty of care to Asylum seekers.
A human is a human and their rights need to be respected. How can Australia as a democratic country that fights overseas for people’s freedom not recognise and act in harmony with its obligation to those it has a duty of care.
The Australian Government has maintained that access to the Manus centre is a matter for Pauper New Guinea . The Australian Government built the centre and underwrites it at considerable taxpayer expense. The Asylum seekers are there because the government sends them there. The Australian government should insist on transparency with PNG.
As the Human Rights Law Centre in its submission to committee stated “Transparency is vital to ensuring scrutiny and accountability for the conditions in which asylum seekers are being detained. It is also vital to the Australian people’s ability to evaluate current asylum seeker policy and the manner of its implementation.” It is also part of Australia’s duty of care towards asylum seekers that there is transparency and that we all know what is happening there.
One submission to the committee highlighted “[Immigration] Minister Scott Morrison’s inability to guarantee the safety of people on Manus Island…demonstrate that Manus Island should be closed as soon as possible as an offshore detention centre”— it also highlights that Australia’s Government is in breech of its duty of care to Asylum Seekers.