Jesuit Refugee Service Australia (JRS) has urged Immigration Minister Peter Dutton to exercise "moral and political leadership" by immediately closing the offshore processing centres on Nauru and Manus Island after a series of damning reports showed that nearly 900 refugees are being held in desperately inhumane conditions.
The service says in a statement: "JRS endorses the renewed call by the United Nations' refugee agency (UNHCR) for the Australian government to move without delay all refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru to 'humane conditions with adequate support and services'.
T"he UNHCR's statement comes in the wake of a recent investigation by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch into conditions on Nauru, and The Guardian Australia's publication of a leaked dossier of incident reports written by staff in Nauru's offshore processing centre between 2013 and 2015.
"The reports catalogue more than 2000 incidents of assault, sexual abuse and self-harm, with over half of the reports relating to children. They paint a disturbing picture of dysfunction and cruelty in Australia's offshore processing centre," JRS says.
"JRS is deeply concerned for the mental health and wellbeing of those on Nauru. In particular, JRS holds grave concerns for children, who feature disproportionately in the incident reports," says Oliver White, Assistant Director at JRS.
The government has responded, saying it will investigate the reports, but continues to claim that ultimate responsibility lies with the Nauruan government. The Minister for Immigration, Peter Dutton, has also claimed that asylum seekers and refugees "have even gone to the extent of self-harming, and people have self-immolated, in an effort to get to Australia."
"It beggars belief that Minister Dutton would characterise the two recent incidents of self-immolation on Nauru as a pathway to Australia. The Minister needs to be reminded that one person died, and the other was severely maimed, as a result of their desperate protest against their treatment at the hands of Australia," says Mr White.
"The Australian government is desperate to shift blame from the real culprits responsible for the self-harm incidents: those who have instituted and continue to maintain Australia's offshore processing centres, which have been accurately called 'factories for producing mental illness'.
"Reports of abuses on Nauru are not new: serious concerns about conditions on the island have been raised by human rights organisations, and government-appointed experts for the past three years," says JRS.
"The government has long known about the abuse and inhumane conditions in Nauru: failure to rectify the situation is an admission that the suffering of the people there is a deliberate and calculated Australian policy," says Mr. White.
"JRS calls on all Australians to raise their voices and put a stop to the abuses being perpetrated in their name as a result of the government's offshore processing policies."
Source: JRS Australia
See also: ICN 26 January 2015 - Australia: Church voices concern over drastic protests at Manus Island www.indcatholicnews.com/news.php?viewStory=26573