Claims by the Australian government that its new policy of sending asylum seekers arriving by boat to Papua New Guinea or Nauru is a success have been met with condemnation by several Indonesian human rights and legal aid organizations.

“In this case, success should be defined as their [the Australian government] success in violating the rights of asylum seekers, a success in putting their lives in danger,” says a statement by Suaka, a civil society coalition comprising the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH), the Human Rights Working Group and the Indonesia Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI).

The coalition condemned the deal, signed by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and his Papua New Guinea counterpart, Peter O’Neill, as a violation of the universality principle of human rights. It said that as a member of the 1951 United Nations Convention on the Status of Refugees, the Australian government had committed to and was required to protect the rights of asylum seekers in its territories without discrimination.

Suaka said the Australian government had deliberately put the refugees in countries that were in far worse condition compared to Australia.

In a recent development index by the United Nations Development Program, which evaluates a country’s national income per capita, access to education and average lifespan, Papua New Guinea ranked 156th — compared to Australia, which came in second on the list.

“Papua New Guinea today does not have the capacity nor the national expertise to receive refugees and they also continue to implement the detention of asylum seekers,” Suaka said.

“In addition, 50 percent of women in Papua New Guinea have become rape victims, and the facilities for asylum seekers on Manus Island have also often been criticized as conditions there do not promote the human rights, health and the welfare of asylum seekers.”

The group pointed out that Nauru was in no better condition, with a recent riot by asylum seekers in the country’s detention center pointing to poor facilities provided for refugees.

Data published by the Australian immigration department shows that from September 2012 to March 2013, some 89 percent of asylum seekers entering Australian territory by air had fulfilled the requirements to be classified as refugees.

Only 54.7 percent of those coming in by sea qualified as refugees.

As such, Suaka demanded that the Australian government revoke its memoranda of understanding with Papua New Guinea and Nauru.


Source: Press Release, PAC News