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Interior of Curtin immigration detention centre Australian Government DIBP Creative Commons by 2.0 comparable legal systems do. We, along with others, have pointed out that Australia receives a tiny percentage of asylum seekers globally. We accept 2.2 per cent of the world’s asylum seekers and yet we have a very rigorous system. We do not receive anything like the numbers Europe and Africa do. There is a level of hysteria in Australia and a deeply conservative response to asylum seekers arriving by boat. “Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers is in full breach of international law and the United Nations Refugee Convention, which Australia is a signatory to,” she adds. “The convention does encapsulate contemporary law on the rights of refugees and the obligation of government. The key aspect – and the one we have to keep returning to – is that people who are claiming asylum are entitled, under customary law, to have their claims assessed and all governments accept that. Once they are assessed as refugees then the convention kicks in and There has been no national outrage. We don’t have a legal or national culture that makes reference to human rights concerns that other comparable legal systems do Australian Human Rights Commission that provides various obligations in terms of their right to freedom of movement. The key question for Australia is the pushing back of those claiming protection, which is not envisaged by the refugee convention. When they come to Australia, we have an obligation as a state to assess whether their claim to protection is valid.” Trigg adds that, unlike most other countries with comparable legal systems, Australia is detaining those claiming asylum for months or even years. “Recent statistics indicate people are being held for longer before ultimately being released into the community. The average is six to 12 months. The UNHCR has been clear – and it is backed by the European Court of Human Rights – that anything more than a few weeks to check identification and health screening is in danger of becoming arbitrary detention contrary to the international covenant on political and civil rights.” Alongside the issue of Australia breaching international law, the Australian Human Rights Commission is gravely concerned for the 1,000 or so children currently being detained in closed immigration detention. It recently announced it was launching a National Inquiry Arena Politics ‘Some asylum seekers made multiple suicide attempts’ Chaman Shah Nasiri fled Afghanistan after his family was persecuted by the Taliban. His father was imprisoned – where he was tortured and eventually killed – and his elder brother was missing. The family belonged to the Hazara minority, an ethnic group disliked by the Taliban. Relatives encouraged Nasiri to leave the country. He first went to Pakistan, Singapore, then Indonesia in the early 2000s, none of which offer asylum to refugees. He eventually found his way onto a small fishing boat one night that was bound for Australia. “We were at sea for two days, through storms and to wering waves. Then finally a customs boa t found us and took us to Christmas Island. I could now apply for asylum,” he told Amnesty International. “But there was no freedom and no safety . I was taken to Nauru.” In the processing centre he had no access to a telephone, internet or postal services. There was not enough water to go round and few medical facilities. “I didn’t know whether I would ever be released. Many other asylum seekers developed psychological problems. I remember some people making multiple suicide attempts. I don’t want anyone, any Australian, any non-Australian, to live the life I lived as an asylum seeker. I hope the government will consider this.” But Nasiri’s story has a happy ending. He was granted asylum in 2004 and now lives in Brisbane where he works as a welder. “Now I do wha t I can to raise a wareness of the despera tion and hope that is the life of an asylum seeker . I became an Australian citizen in 2010. I am ver y proud of this. I want my family to be proud.” Perimeter fence at Christmas Island immigration detention centre  Australian Government DIBP Creative Commons by 2.0 © Kylie Jury / Amnesty International global second quar ter 2014 www.global -br ief ing.org l 41


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