Australia immigration policy unsustainable: HRW

Canberra, Jan 13 (IANS) Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Friday urged Australia to take action to end the “unsustainable” policy of processing asylum applications in third-party countries.

HRW’s Australia director Elaine Pearson told Efe news that Australia is responsible for the situation of asylum seekers and refugees who have been in limbo for over three years in processing centres on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island and Nauru.

Around 2,000 people, including women and children, who tried to reach Australia by sea, are still waiting for their asylum applications to be processed at these Australian offshore centres, Pearson said.

However, once they are approved and recognized as refugees, they will be sent to third-party countries.

Various human rights organisations have for years criticized Australia for this policy.

According to NGO reports, the mental problems suffered by some of the asylum seekers are exacerbated by long periods in detention, in addition to alleged sexual harassment and other physical and psychological abuses they faced in the centres.

Pearson said that Australia must urgently find a suitable solution, as the conditions at the centres in both Papua New Guinea and Nauru make it impossible to receive refugees. Papua New Guinea’s Supreme Court declared its centre illegal in 2016.

Australia recently agreed with the US to receive an indefinite number of refugees, but with the upcoming change in the US presidency, this solution is “quite improbable”, according to the HRW’s Australia director.

The UN has also criticized the existence of these detention centres and describes the precarious living conditions to which the asylum seekers are subjected to as “inhumane”.

Many of the migrants detained in Nauru and Papua New Guinea have fled conflicts from countries and territories such as Afghanistan, Darfur, Pakistan, Somalia and Syria, while others have faced discrimination in their homelands or were stateless peoples such as the Rohingya minority in Myanmar.