Politics

Dutton Says People On Manus And Nauru Are “Armani Refugees” Chilling By The Beach

People are dying.

This post discusses graphic self harm and other disturbing details regarding Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers.

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Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has doubled down on comments he made yesterday about asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru being “Armani refugees” who spend their time in detention centres “enjoying themselves…by the beach and all the rest of it”.

Yes, that’s Armani the luxury fashion brand, because Dutton genuinely seems to believe that people living in conditions that “amount to torture”, according to Amnesty International, are actually secretly living in luxury on the Australian taxpayer’s dollar. Never mind that Dutton himself has previously had to announce to the public that people in these detention centres have set themselves on fire to protest their treatment.

Dutton made the comments yesterday in an interview on 2GB, saying he thought pictures of the first refugees leaving Manus Island to be resettled in the US looked like a “fashion show”. In the image in question, everyone is wearing very everyday clothes.

Dutton then went on to claim the refugees on Manus and Nauru are “economic refugees” who “got on a boat, paid a people smuggler a lot of money, and somebody once said to me that we’ve got the world’s biggest collection of Armani jeans and handbags up on Nauru waiting for people to collect it when they depart.”

He then said that “we have been taken for a ride, I believe, by a lot of the advocates and people within Labor and the Greens who want you to believe this is a terrible existence,” and that “there is a very different scenario up on Nauru and Manus than people want you to believe.”

Despite the fact that all of these takes are completely unfounded and contradict everything we know about the conditions on Manus and Nauru, Dutton then doubled down on these comments while speaking in London this morning, refusing to back down.

Amnesty International: “Peter Dutton’s Comments Are Irresponsible And Untrue”

Amnesty International has already slammed Dutton’s comments as complete bullshit, saying they are “not only extremely irresponsible”, but also “show a complete lack of understanding of the refugee convention”.

That refugee convention, which Australia is a party to, defines a refugee as “someone who is unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.” Under that convention, almost 1800 of the 2000 people in Australia’s offshore detention centres have been found to be refugees. They are not faking, secretly living in luxury, or “economic refugees”. They are actual refugees fleeing for their lives, and we have a responsibility to them.

Graham Thom, Amnesty International Australia’s Refugee Coordinator, put this in very plain terms in a statement released yesterday.

“Instead of offering them safe refuge, Australia subjected them to another four years of suffering in its abusive offshore facilities,” he said. “They were recognised as refugees under international law and Dutton’s outrageous allegations are demonstration of either ignorance or continued intent to harm them further.”

“What Peter Dutton failed to mention was the fact that eight people have died in Australia’s offshore detention, including most recently a young man named Hamed. Anyone who has seen the pictures of that young man’s body hanging from a tree would not be making comments about people out ‘enjoying themselves’,” he said.

These comments join previous reports by Amnesty International condemning conditions on Nauru as an “island of despair” experiencing an “epidemic of self-harm” and conditions that amount to torture. In June, the federal government paid compensation to Manus Island detainees seeking damages for false imprisonment and alleged physical and psychological harm. Refugees have set themselves on fire in protest at the conditions they’re facing. Papua New Guinea has ruled the Manus Island centre is illegal and breaches rights to personal liberty.

These are the conditions people are in while Dutton says they’re “enjoying themselves” by the beach. And yet he remains one of Australia’s most senior government ministers. For shame.