Australia: High Court decision prolongs agony faced by asylum seekers in offshore detention

Amnesty International is disappointed that the Australian High Court has ruled that offshore detention is lawful. This decision will result in around 260 vulnerable people, including over 80 children, being forcibly sent back to Nauru.

Amnesty International believes that these people seeking asylum would be at real risk of serious human rights violations if returned to Nauru. Despite the findings of the High Court, which only examined Australian law, it is clear that their return would violate Australia’s international obligations.

But the High Court decision, which does not outlaw the Australian policy of offshore detention in Nauru, has broader implications for the further 537 people already at the Nauru Regional Processing Centre, including 68 children, who now face an indefinite stay.

All asylum seekers on Nauru suffer the effects of harsh living conditions: their mental and physical wellbeing is being eroded each day, driving people to self-harm and attempted suicide.

Additionally, Amnesty International has continually received extremely concerning reports of sexual harassment and sexual abuse of women and children asylum-seekers in Nauru.

“Despite the High Court decision in this case, Amnesty International calls on Prime Minister Turnbull to do the right thing and permanently close the centre on Nauru and relocate the asylum seekers held there into our community.”

Amnesty International Australia’s Refugee Coordinator Dr Graham Thom

“The Nauru processing centre puts vulnerable people at risk and operates with an unacceptable lack of transparency.

“Amnesty International, as well as numerous other organisations and individuals, has submitted several formal requests to visit Nauru with the intention of independently reviewing the conditions and assessing the overall human rights situation, but to no avail.

“This secrecy must be addressed, and the independent monitoring mechanism - which was agreed to under the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture - needs to be established.”

Nauru made a public commitment to allow greater access to media and international organisations at the UN Human Rights Council in November 2015, but these promises are yet to be fulfilled.

Amnesty International continues to call on Nauru to swiftly rectify this lack of transparency and to grant access to foreign journalists and international human rights organisations.