Concern for asylum seekers wellbeing – ALA

13th Sep 2013

Almost $28 million has been spent by Australia on asylum seekers compensation claims since 2000. Of this, $21.1 million was for unlawful detention in 299 matters and $6.9 million for breaches of duty-of-care and statutory duties towards 150 others, the Australian Lawyers Alliance said today.

The ALA, which obtained the information through the Freedom of Information Act, said compensation figures for harm vested by Australia on genuine asylum seekers continued to climb and this trend was likely to continue.

“Australians have a right to know about these heartless, unnecessary costs. New senators have an obligation to call on the Department of Immigration and Citizenship to twice yearly publish claimant payments, ALA National President, Geraldine Collins, said.

“Nothing short of absolute transparency in policy for all matters relating to the treatment and care of asylum seekers must be adopted,” she said.

Ms Collins said there was a very real fear in the legal profession that harm continued to be inflicted on these desperate people with no apparent end in sight. If anything, policies seemed to be heading towards an even more heavily-handed approach with a greater involvement of the navy and ‘turning back’ and ‘buying the boats’ policies being promoted.

“We don’t want a return to the Tampa fiasco that occurred under Howard Government policies.

"Tampa was the spark that started the whole notion of a ‘Pacific Solution’. That ‘solution’ along with 'The Malaysian Solution’, and that of Nauru and Manus Island have never offered any kind of solution to this endless human suffering,” Ms Collins said.

“It has all resulted in a very costly exercise of unlawfully detaining and failing to properly care for genuine refugees. The millstone must be removed from the necks of both asylum seekers and Australian taxpayers."

Ms Collins said asylum seekers lacked access to legal and health services in Nauru and Manus Island and their treatment while in such locations should also be open to greater public scrutiny.

“Ultimately, it was up to the Abbott Government to now ensure Australia honoured its commitment to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) if Australia was to move forward as a mature, respected nation,” she said.

“Australia’s starting point should be the release of all asylum-seeking children held in detention and an end to the negative rhetoric, which continues to desensitise us towards those fleeing harm.

"Australia’s intake of refugees is 0.03% of the population. We have an international duty and it is time to properly honour it. The alternative is one of continuing harm – harm towards vulnerable people, harm to Australia’s international reputation, and harm to the country’s finances,” Ms Collins said.

Tags: Human rights Compensation Asylum seekers and refugees