Australia criticised in major report on human rights

Asylum-seekers inside the detention centre at Nauru, 2019 (ABC News/Department of Immigration)

A new report on human rights has taken Australia to task over a range of issues, including asylum-seekers, aged care, media freedom and Indigenous rights. Source: SBS News.

By Peggy Giakoumelos, SBS News

The World Report 2020 is the 30th report released by Human Rights Watch reviewing human rights practices in nearly 100 countries, including Australia.

The New York-based groups’ review of Australia is critical of Australia’s asylum-seeker and refugee policies, saying medical facilities in Papua New Guinea and Nauru are not dealing properly with the complex health needs of those in offshore detention.

As of December 2019, 466 asylum-seekers remained in offshore detention facilities.

Nicholas Procter, Professor of Mental Health at the University of South Australia, said prolonged uncertainty is continuing to impact those who have yet to be resettled.

“What we know is something that we have known for some time. That’s the relationship of prolonged uncertainty particularly for people with a history of trauma and existing mental health problems,” he told SBS News.

Professor Procter said mental illness was common in those in offshore detention.

The report states at least 12 refugees and asylum-seekers have died in Australia’s offshore processing system since 2013, six of them due to suicide.

In February 2019, parliament passed a law facilitating transfers of detainees requiring medical treatment from offshore locations to Australia, but the so-called Medevac Law was repealed in December, a move Human Rights Watch says leaves refugees and asylum-seekers in limbo.

While Human Rights Watch welcomed the announcement in April of a royal commission into violence, abuse, neglect, and exploitation of people with disabilities, it said more needed to be done to support people with disabilities in the prison system.

The NGO also condemned the high rate of Indigenous Australians in the criminal justice system, and especially Indigenous children - who are 26 times more likely to be detained than non-Indigenous children.

The routine use of drugs to control people in aged care facilities came under scrutiny, an issue also raised during the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety which began in 2019.

Freedom of expression also came under scrutiny as part of the report, with police raids on a government official and journalists raised.


Australia’s policies on asylum-seekers and media freedom criticised in new human rights report (SBS News)


'A chilling effect': Human Rights Watch slams Australia's raids on the media (The Age)

Human Rights Watch launches damning report on China, urging action against oppression and abuses (ABC News)

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