Politics

Australia’s Offshore Detention Regime Is Crumbling Before Our Eyes.

We've reached a tipping point.

manus island human rights nauru kids in detention

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After more than five years of brutality, systematic torture and child abuse, both the detention of people seeking asylum and the brutal logic that underpins it are falling apart.

There are currently 78 children detained by the Australian government on Nauru, and many hundreds of men and women still languishing there and on Manus Island.

The situation on Nauru is becoming more desperate by the day. Kids are self-harming. Some have spent their entire lives in detention. There are children who are suffering resignation syndrome, their minds essentially shutting down because the external trauma becomes too much to bear.

The limited medical support that was available to refugees is disappearing.

Last week, Medicins Sans Frontieres were forced off Nauru, and in the last 24 hours, Australia’s most senior medical officer on the island was arrested and deported. More than 5,500 doctors have co-signed a letter demanding the removal of children and their families from detention on Nauru.

Despite all this, this government has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of your money fighting in Australia’s courts to keep children in these torturous conditions.

For years, both major parties have told Australians that treating people so cruelly was necessary to deter other people from seeking asylum in Australia.

We have been told to harden our hearts. We’ve been told to ignore the suffering of men, women and children because it was allegedly in service of some higher goal.

But the people of Australia have refused to believe this bullshit, and they are demanding the cruelty end. Public mood has reached a tipping point.

The Australian people want to see offshore detention ended, and people given a chance to rebuild their shattered lives in this country. They are appalled at what has been done in their name.

This week, three Liberal MPs – Craig Laundy, Julia Banks and Russell Broadbent – demanded that the Prime Minister bring these children and their families to Australia for medical treatment.

I have no reason to doubt that this is a sincere demand.

The Greens, along with crossbenchers Andrew Wilkie and Rebekah Sharkie, will introduce legislation that matches the demands of the Liberal MPs.

This bill would require that all children detained on Nauru and their families be brought immediately to Australia for urgently needed medical and psychological assessment and treatment.

With the support of the three Liberal MPs and the Labor Party, the legislation would pass Parliament and the children could be brought from Nauru to Australia as soon as this week.

The government has long insisted that everything that has happened in offshore detention – the murders, the assaults, the abuse, the self-harm, and the countless deprivations – was a matter for the governments of Nauru and Papua New Guinea.

We have always known this to be false, and this was confirmed when Scott Morrison offered to (maybe) send 150 people to New Zealand, on the ludicrous condition that everyone detained on Manus Island and Nauru be banned from ever coming to Australia.

How can Mr Morrison even speculate about accepting New Zealand’s offer if it is a “matter for the Government of Nauru”?

Worse still, he is using the plight of desperately ill children to try to blackmail the Senate into supporting his draconian lifetime travel ban.

The lifetime ban would mean that refugees who were not fortunate enough to make it to New Zealand or the US would be indefinitely stranded on Nauru or Manus Island.

This is obviously an unacceptable outcome. Slowly, but surely, the edifice is coming down. After five years, the Australian people’s demand that the cruelty end is finally being heard.

It is more important than ever that we keep fighting for every single person detained on Nauru and Manus Island.

We cannot now succumb to Morrison’s blackmail, nor can we abandon hope.

Nor should we temper our demand that every single man, woman and child kept in offshore detention be given freedom and safety in this country.


Senator Nick McKim is the Greens Spokesperson for Citizenship and Immigration. Follow him on Twitter @NickMcKim.