REVIEW OF NEWSPAPER ARTICLES ON REFUGEE DETENTION

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    Undergraduate
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Review of newspaper articles on inhumane detention of refugees by the Australian government.

Student:

Review of newspaper articles on inhumane detention of refugees by the Australian government.

In the recent past, the Australian government has come under sharp criticism by international human rights, the United Nations and several political quarters within and without the country its treatment of refugees held in Nauru and Manus Island detention centres [ CITATION Jan14 l 1033 ]. Detention of distressed refugees and asylum seekers in a detention centre against their will is a violation of their right to freedom and a dignified quality life [ CITATION Jam05 l 1033 ]. Detention in crowded camps has been the Australian government’s response to illegal immigrants trying to enter the country by boats. While the idea of preventing undocumented immigration may be noble, detention of people for long periods in inhumane conditions violates refugees’ rights. The following review newspaper articles focuses on violation of the above mentioned human rights by the Australian government in its handling of refugees and asylum seekers.

Mcllroy, T. (2016, August 14). Australia ‘has lost moral compass’ over immigration detention: New Zealand opposition. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved from http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/australia-has-lost-moral-compass-over-immigration-detention-new-zealand-opposition-20160814-gqs493.html

According to the article by Mcllroy (2016), the New Zealand opposition expressed deep dissatisfaction with the Australian government’s handling of the refugee crisis in the Manus and Nauru Islands. The Opposition leadership accused the Australian government of lacking the moral compass to address the offshore detention of refugees’ problem. New Zealand had offered to settle refugees and asylum seekers in 2015 but Australia refused. This article offers a preview into the delicate balance between national politics, priorities and protection of human rights enshrined in international conventions. The New Zealand opposition acknowledges the fact that Australia and Nauru Island have the responsibilities under the 1951 convention to protect and uphold refugee rights. The 1951 UN convention and protocol relating to the status of refugees protects among other rights the refugee’s right to freedom of association, access to education and gainful employment, protection from expulsion (“refoulment) [ CITATION Uni51 l 1033 ]. While the opposition may be politically motivated to criticize a government, it is worthy to note that in this case the Australian government is actively violating the terms of the 1951 convention on refugee rights as it is a signatory. The arguments presented in this article will be critically important in analysing the intervention of political forces in addressing the plight of refugees and asylum seekers in detention camps.

The Globe and Mail. (2016, August 10). For refugees, Australia rolls out the ‘Not Welcome’ mat.The Globe and Mail. Retrieved from http://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/editorials/for-refugees-australia-rolls-out-the-not-welcome-mat/article31351110/

In this editorial, The Globe and Mail (2016) criticizes the Australian government’s policy of indefinite detention of undocumented refugees and asylum seekers in an attempt to discourage unwanted migrants seeking refuge in Australia. The Globe and Mail article offers a candid opinion of the Australian government’s xenophobic attitude that has characterised its approach towards handling vulnerable refugees. The article also condemns the continued violation of refugee rights by indefinitely detaining them against their will in an environment that exposes them to mental stress and physical abuse. Detention and repulsion of refugees serves the government’s and conservative population’s interests but on the other hand violates human rights and international conventions that have been ratified by a country such as Australia [ CITATION Gal10 l 1033 ]. European Union members have in the recent past ideologically disagreed on the matter of whether to accept a high number of refugees from Syria seeking a better life in Europe due to the resultant socioeconomic and security impact. Clearly, the major challenge to refugee absorption into societies is conservative nature of opinions held by a significant segment of a country’s population [ CITATION Luc16 l 1033 ]. The article notes that the government is not truly committed to settling refugees as it pays offshore governments to handle the refugee crisis on its behalf. Detention may be a tool to repel or instil fear in refugees who may be desperate to enter a country to lead a dignified life but in the process the rights of vulnerable human beings get violated [ CITATION Gal10 l 1033 ]. This article will be relevant in reviewing Australian government’s ongoing violation of human rights in the guise of protecting its national interests.

Dearden, L. (2016 August 17). Australia to close Manus Island refugee processing centre after Papua New Guinea rules detention illegal. The Independent. Retrieved from http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/australasia/australia-to-close-manus-island-refugee-processing-centre-papua-new-guinea-rules-detention-illegal-a7195106.html

According to Dearden (2016), the Papua New Guinea high court bowed to pressure from the United Nations and various human rights groups to declare detention at Manus Island as illegal as it contravenes the country’s constitution. Australia has used the Manus Island as an offshore processing centre for asylum seekers and refugees. Papua New Guinea has received substantial payments over the years to sustain the camps and settle refugees in its territories. Papua New Guinea’s decision to declare detention illegal effectively led to the announcements that the camp will be closed. The fact that Australia has continuously ignored concerns raised by the United Nations and rights groups points to a worrying trend of nations violating international human rights conventions and suffering no consequences as observed by Chimni (2000). The major theme that emerges from this article is an ineffective human rights protection system in form of UNHCR that cannot enforce international conventions. Indeed, bodies such as the International Court of Justice and the Security Council have failed to effectively address issues of human rights such as refugee detention (Sharma, 2015). It is critically important that human rights activists and the UNHCR devise different legal and diplomatic mechanisms towards pressuring regimes into abiding by international laws that protect basic and fundamental human rights and in particular vulnerable groups [ CITATION Luc16 l 1033 ]. This article offers an understanding of the factors leading to establishment and closure of refugee detention centres and the plight of vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers in the 21st century.

References

Cornelisse, G. (2010). Immigration Detention and Human Rights: Rethinking Territorial Sovereignty. BRILL.

Chimni, B. S. (2000). Globalization, humanitarianism and the erosion of refugee protection. Journal of Refugee Studies, 13(3), 243-263.

Dearden, L. (2016 August 17). Australia to close Manus Island refugee processing centre after Papua New Guinea rules detention illegal. The Independent. Retrieved from http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/australasia/australia-to-close-manus-island-refugee-processing-centre-papua-new-guinea-rules-detention-illegal-a7195106.html

Fiske, L. (2016). Human Rights, Refugee Protest and Immigration Detention. Springer.

Hathaway, J. (2005). The Rights of Refugees under International Law. Cambridge University Press.

McAdam, J. (2014). Refugees: Why seeking asylum is legal and Australia’s policies are not. UNSW Press.

Mcllroy, T. (2016, August 14). Australia ‘has lost moral compass’ over immigration detention: New Zealand opposition. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved from http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/australia-has-lost-moral-compass-over-immigration-detention-new-zealand-opposition-20160814-gqs493.html

Sharma, B. B. (2015). Revisiting the United Nations’ 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees: A Critical Analysis of the International Refugee Law. Social Development Issues, 37(2), 80-94.

The Globe and Mail. (2016, August 10). For refugees, Australia rolls out the ‘Not Welcome’ mat.The Globe and Mail. Retrieved from http://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/editorials/for-refugees-australia-rolls-out-the-not-welcome-mat/article31351110/

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. (2010). The 1951 Refugee Convention. Retrieved August 28, 2016, from UNHCR: http://www.unhcr.org/1951-refugee-convention.html