Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018

Afghan Refugees in Australian Detention Centers

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Afghan Refugees in Australian Detention Centers

Nowadays Afghan refugees in Australian detention centers are on protest and hunger strike. Recently some very disturbing news of suicide attempts by some immigrants who are to be sent back to Afghanistan, were reported in media. A young boy had hanged himself in a detention center. Human rights organizations have been criticizing the Australian Government for the inhumane treatment of these detainees, and the centers where refugees are kept in severe conditions and most get psychological problems.

These days the protests are continued in detention centers in Sydney, Melbourne, Christmas Island, Western Australia and many other places. There are about 6,819 immigrant asylum seekers in the Australian detention centers. More than 2000 of them are Afghans. A big number of these people include children and women. Mostly they spend more than 6 months in the prison-like crowded detention centers with no facilities, but many are kept there for over a year.

Right now hundreds of Afghan asylum seekers are on hunger strike in Curtin detention center in Western Australia. Around 300 people are on a sit-in protest since last week. Australian officials have barred media and refugee activists to get to the detention center. An Australian media outlet AAP has quoted one official from Curtin saying "I can't comment on what they are protesting, but I can say that no protest will affect their processing or any aspect of their detention."

Last month a young Afghan named Meqdad Hussain committed suicide in Scherger detention center of Queensland on March 16. His body is yet not transferred to relatives to be sent back to his parents. On March 28, another young Afghan committed suicide in Curtin center. Last week two other men made attempts of self-harm and suicide. On Christmas Island, some detainees have sewn their lips. Refugee advocates have reported that 300 detainees at the remote Curtin facility in northern Western Australia are continuing a hunger strike and sit-in that began last Saturday.

The conditions in Australian detention centers are in violation of the basic human rights. Media and refugee rights advocates are not given access to the immigrants in those centers. Australian Government is making its refugee laws stricter. Recently some new articles were added in the law paving way for deportation of refugees who take part in protest and peaceful sit-ins inside the detention centers. Besides all the severe conditions in those centers, addition of this amendment in refugee law is against the very basic rights. If the Australian Government continue responding to the desperate moves of those living under inhumane conditions in the detention centers with such strict addition in laws, it will not resolve the issue, but increase self-harm and suicide attempts.

The international community, human rights organizations and the United Nations have kept silence on the tragedy of Afghan refugees in Australia. It is not reported in media other than some local Australian newspapers in cities where those detention centers are located. Local refugee rights groups have been conducting protest demonstrations in Melbourne recently, but it has not attracted any international attention from the Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the United Nations. The Australian Government is violating the International Refugee Convention, to which Australia is a signatory.

This year in January the Australian Government signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Afghanistan. It allows forced return of refugees, who are rejected asylum. This was a shameful agreement on the basis of false assumptions of "peace and security" in Afghanistan as a reason for those asylum seekers to be deported by force. Afghan media and MPs have rejected that pity and ridiculous Memorandum of Understanding. Recently a prominent Afghan politician and Member of Parliament visited Australia and spoke to the Afghan Diaspora there. He appealed the Australian Government for more appropriate and humanitarian response to the influx of Afghan refugees to the Australian shores relaxing the strict detention conditions.

That MoU was a shameful deal which is not based on ground realities. Last year the Australian Embassy from Kabul had sent a report to its Government saying the Afghan asylum seekers are fleeing Afghanistan as economic migrants, not genuine refugees. It added, very ridiculously, that the asylum seekers who escape the country are actually living in a 'golden age' here. This flawed report was used as source for the decision-making by the Australian Government regarding the asylum seekers. Most of the refugee groups, academics and experts in Australia rejected that bogus report and doubted the assessment saying the conclusion is far from ground realities. The international community and United Nations should pressurize the Australian Government against the new strict amendments in refugee laws, and the inhuman treatment in detention centers. The forceful deportation of Afghan refugees is against refugee rights.

If Australian Government wants to stop the influx of refugees on its shores, it has to control its borders, not announce inhumane laws in violation of the International Refugee Convention against those already kept in prisons-cum-detention-centers. Forceful deportation of the refugees against their will must be criticized by international refugee rights organizations. All those asylum seekers in detention centers waiting their deportation have the worst stories. They not only take risk of their lives to reach Australia for migration blessings, they are trying the options between death and life!

The naïve reasons mentioned in the Memorandum of Understanding that allows legal cover for such inhumane forceful deportation are based on the false report saying those refugees are living in "golden age" in a peaceful and secure situation in Afghanistan.
UNHCR should not only take notice of the severe conditions in the Australian detention centers, but also send a high-level delegation to investigate the situation in those centers that make young boys commit suicide.

Abbas Daiyar is the permanent writer of the Daily outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at Abbas.daiyar@gmail.com

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