Julie Bishop rejects asylum 'inhumanity' accusations
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has defended the government's offshore detention centres against accusations of inhumanity, and comparisons with Guantanamo Bay, in a hostile interview with the BBC.PT2M54S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-34lvm 620 349 March 12, 2014
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has defended the Abbott government against accusations of inhumanity and "effectively operating a kind of Guantanamo Bay" with its offshore detention centres in Manus Island and Nauru.
In a hostile BBC interview recorded on her trip to London, Ms Bishop said she categorically rejected claims that her government was running ''savage and uncivilised'' detention centres.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop in London this week has defended Australia's offshore detention policy for asylum seekers in a hostile interview on BBC radio. Photo: AFP
"Well I've visited there," Ms Bishop told the interviewer. "And I'm satisfied that . . . people are treated appropriately, with dignity."
"What are they, holiday camps?" the BBC interviewer asked.
"They're not holiday camps," Ms Bishop replied. "Because people are clearly having their applications for asylum processed there and if they are found not to be genuine asylum seekers they are returned to their home country.
"What we're trying to do is prevent people coming via the people smuggling trade to Australia."
Ms Bishop said the BBC audience might not be aware that 1200 people had died getting on fishing boats and trying to make the dangerous journey to Australia.
She said the Abbott government was fulfilling its election promise to dismantle the people smuggling trade and save thousands of lives at sea.
"[But] it just seems a slightly uncivilised way of doing it, doesn't it?" the interviewer said. "Saying to these people who are desperate . . . because they fear for their lives . . . saying to them 'try and get into Australia and you will be treated pretty savagely'.
"Well, that's not the case," Ms Bishop said.
The interviewer also suggested that the government was ''effectively operating a kind of Guantanamo Bay''.
"No, I don't accept that at all," the Foreign Minister replied.
Nor would the Abbott government be deterred by criticisms from the United Nations refugee agency, Ms Bishop said. The UNHCR has warned that Australia's asylum seeker policies could place Australia in breach of its obligations under the 1951 UN Refugee Convention.
Ms Bishop said the Abbott government had responded to the UNHCR's statement in Geneva and she was personally satisfied that asylum seekers were being appropriately cared for in the offshore detention centres.
"People are being treated with respect, with dignity, they are given healthcare," Ms Bishop said.
"They are given schooling, their children go to school, they have community centres, there are doctors.
"I've met with the doctors there," she added. "The standard of accommodation and the standard of support [asylum seekers] receive, in many instances, is better than that received by the people of Papua New Guinea."