Articles and information that comes to light about persons seeking asylum, not only with Australia, but around the world.
Labor and the Greens say the Government must reveal the details of the alleged incident.
Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young says the reports are serious and must be clarified by Immigration Minister Scott Morrison.
“We’ve got a situation where a boat has been towed back by Australian officers, the boat has run aground. These people could have drowned,” she said.
“How many other boats has this occurred to that we’ve never heard about?
“Mr Morrison must clarify immediately and it has to be today.”
Indonesian authorities say the Australian Navy forced an asylum seeker boat back towards Indonesia, where it ran out of fuel and ran aground.
December 8, 2013: A boat carrying 47 asylum seekers and two crew set sail from South Sulawesi.
December 13, 2013: Passengers say they were intercepted by the Australian Navy and “pushed” or forced back to Indonesian waters where they later ran out of fuel.
December 19, 2013: The boat was found washed up on Rote Island and those on board arrested by police.
The incident allegedly happened shortly before Christmas but was only reported in local Indonesian news now, after refugee rights activists noticed reports and posted them on Twitter.
Indonesia’s government newswire Antara says a group of 47 asylum seekers was arrested by police on Rote Island, in Indonesia’s East Nusa Tenggara region, last month.
Reports come amid already strained relationship
News that the Australian Navy physically forced a boat of asylum seekers back to Indonesia is likely to inflame tensions between the two countries.
The issue of turning back asylum seeker boats has been a sticking point since well before the relationship became strained over the spying scandal.
Manus Island’s detention centre has been described as cruel, inhuman, degrading and violating prohibitions against torture in a detailed report by Amnesty International.
The centre has been notoriously difficult for journalists to access since it reopened last year, but three Amnesty researchers and translators were allowed into Manus Island for a week last month.
The report, obtained exclusively by the ABC’s 7.30 program, paints a very dark picture of life in the centre for the roughly 1,100 men currently detained at three compounds on the island.
The most extraordinary claim in Amnesty’s report is that drinking water in the largest compound, called Oscar, is limited to less than half a litre a day.
“In the largest compound… water is supplied through 19-litre bottles,” the report said.
“A dozen bottles a day for nearly 500 men, according to the staff who supply them, or less than a single 500ml bottle per person, an amount that is clearly insufficient, especially given the heat and humidity.”
Amnesty researcher Graeme McGregor visited Manus Island and says health staff at the centre are worried.
“That’s an extremely concerning problem and it’s something that was raised by the health staff as well,” he said.
“The men spend several hours a day – some reported four to five hours a day – queuing for meals and for the toilets and things like that.
“They have absolutely no shelter or shade outside and of course you’re talking about a tropical island, so the temperature can reach up to 35 degrees. It’s extremely humid.”
Manus Island medical staff worried about state of facilities
The report also claims toilet facilities lack even the most basic services like soap.
“Most of the latrines had no soap when we inspected them… there are too few showers and toilets to accommodate the number of men in the facility resulting in… unhygienic conditions,” the report said.
A guy from Iraq told us that he would rather have died at sea.
Amnesty International’s Claire Mallinson
Mr McGregor says it is causing preventable outbreaks of illness.
“We were informed by several staff that gastroentiritis is common, that there’s been several outbreaks of gastro inside the compounds,” he said.
“And we would certainly argue that that is much more likely because the men don’t have soap in the toilets a lot of the time.”
The report claims medical staff on Manus Island have asked for the facilities to be improved.
“Requests by medical staff for basic measures that would improve health and sanitation have received no response,” the report said.
Photo: The report from Amnesty International claims that drinking water in the compounds is limited to less than half a litre a day. (Supplied: Immigration Department)
“For example, staff have asked that detainees have greater opportunities for mental stimulation… a sufficient supply of drinking water for those in Oscar compound, shoes for all detainees and soap in the latrines.”
Amnesty International’s Claire Mallinson says the report and concerns of medical staff on the island will be aired globally.
“When we talked to the medical staff there, they estimated that over 30 per cent of the detainees there now have mental health problems,” she said.
“We talked to people who expressed a desire to self harm and also suicide.
“A guy from Iraq told us that he would rather have died at sea.”
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison ‘surprised’ by findings
On Wednesday in Canberra, Ms Mallinson and Mr McGregor held a meeting with Immigration Minister Scott Morrison to brief him on the report.
Ms Mallinson says the Minister was surprised by some of the report’s findings.
“His response was that he would read the report, review the recommendations and with some of the issues that we raised he looked surprised,” she said.
To walk away from offshore processing as the previous Labor government chose to do, at the urging of those who are now making the same recommendations once again, would be reckless and irresponsible.
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison
“I am very optimistic that he will look to address those fairly shortly.”
Mr Morrison said in a statement that suggestions would be given proper consideration “where practical”.
“Where improvements can be made and can be justified, they will be made, but the policy of offshore processing is here to stay,” he said.
“To walk away from offshore processing as the previous Labor government chose to do, at the urging of those who are now making the same recommendations once again, would be reckless and irresponsible.”
Later, Mr Morrison told Sky News the Government was already acting to address a number of issues raised in the report.
“There are some things in this report that we will seek to verify with Amnesty and get the details of what they’re talking about,” he said.
“I’ve reviewed the report and some of those comments are a little general, I’ve got to say.
“At the same time we’re going through a massive expansion program and one of the reasons we’re doing that is to address quite a number of issues they highlighted in the report. ”
Conditions ‘deliberately bad’ to break asylum seekers, Greens say
The Greens have accused the Government of using the poor conditions to push asylum seekers to breaking point.
Greens immigration spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young says the conditions described in the report amount to intentional cruelty.
“It seems as though the conditions are so bad that perhaps maybe they’re meant to be deliberately bad, in order to push people to breaking point,” she said.
“Pushing them to a point of self-destruction, self-harm, attempted suicide, and even comments such as people saying they would have preferred to have died at sea rather than to have been sent to Manus Island and be treated the way they are.
“If that is the case that’s a very, very serious and sad indictment of Government policy.”
Papua New Guinea dismisses claims as ‘out of date’
At his weekly press briefing on November 8, Mr Morrison had said work was continuing on upgrading the Manus Island facility to cope with an increase in detainees.
“We have current physical capacity to deal with everybody who is there,” he said.
“We have the capacity to take every single person who is currently on Manus Island, and we are putting in place, and that should be occurring pretty much as we speak, an additional more than 400 beds.”
Papua New Guinea’s foreign minister Rimbink Pato dismissed the key claims in the report at a press conference in Canberra on Wednesday.
“The reports that have come is not a true reflection of what is happening on Manus,” he said.
“I think the report was out of date, at the present time I think we have a pretty good facility there.”
Morrison confirms at least two killed in asylum boat sinking
By Indonesia correspondent George Roberts, staff – Tue 10 Dec 2013, 5:57am AEDT | Updated 1 hour 45 minutes ago
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison says at least two people died when an asylum seeker boat sank off the Indonesian island of Java yesterday.
Playing God on asylum seekers is unacceptable Opinion
The Drum By Jane McAdam – Thu 5 Dec 2013, 3:00pm AEDT | Updated Thu 5 Dec 2013, 3:10pm AEDT
The fate of asylum seekers shouldn’t be left in the hands of any one minister whose decisions can’t be reviewed – that’s why we need complementary protection legislation.
Government looking at new measures to stop permanent arrivals
By chief political correspondent Emma Griffiths – Tue 3 Dec 2013, 11:54am AEDT | Updated Tue 3 Dec 2013, 4:16pm AEDT
Tony Abbott insists the Government will ensure refugees who have arrived by boat will not stay permanently in Australia, despite the Senate blocking moves to restore temporary visas.
Labor and the Greens voted to disallow the reintroduction of the Howard-era temporary protection visas (TPVs) in the Senate last night.
Mr Abbott says measures to counter the Senate decision will be announced “shortly”.
“But my message to the people smugglers and their clients right now and always is don’t come because you won’t stay,” he said.
“We’ll have more to say shortly about measures that will ensure that Labor’s attempt to sabotage temporary protection visas is not effective.
Mon 2 Dec 2013, 11:13pm AEDT | Updated Tue 3 Dec 2013, 7:02am AEDT
Labor has voted with the Greens in the Senate to block the Government’s bid to bring back Temporary Protection Visas.
ABC News – Fri 29 Nov 2013, 12:31pm AEDT
Myanmar asylum seeker Latifa with her baby, who was delivered by caesarean section in Brisbane and has suffered respiratory problems and feeding difficulties.
ABC News – Fri 29 Nov 2013, 11:36pm AEDT | Updated Fri 29 Nov 2013, 11:39pm AEDT
One of two asylum seeker boats that were intercepted near Christmas Island, off the north coast of Western Australia, on April 11, 2012, sits next to a Royal Australian Navy ship in a bay at Christmas Island.
Asylum seeker family allowed to stay in Australia temporarily
Fri 29 Nov 2013, 1:02pm AEDT | Updated Fri 29 Nov 2013, 6:14pm AEDT
The Federal Court has given a temporary reprieve to an asylum seeker family battling to stay in Australia to access medical treatment for their baby.
Aung San Suu Kyi weighs in on asylum seeker debate
Thu 28 Nov 2013, 5:31pm AEDT | Updated Fri 29 Nov 2013, 12:57am AEDT
Myanmar’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has offered her thoughts on Australia’s asylum seeker debate, saying justice should be tempered by mercy.
Lateline 3min 22sec – Tue 26 Nov 2013, 11:16pm AEDT
A new report by UNHCR has called for the federal government to stop sending asylum seeker children to the Nauru and Manus Island detention centres because of concerns about deteriorating conditions in the camps and says that a processing log jam may see asylum seekers stuck in the centres for years.