Date: August 19 2012
ASYLUM seekers sent to Nauru under Australia's Pacific Solution Mark II would have a night curfew and be banned from paid employment - but they would be free to roam the island, send their children to schools and do voluntary work in the community.
As an Australian reconnaissance team visits his nation this weekend, Nauru's Foreign Minister Kieren Keke has told The Sunday Age that his country would have ''no problem'' with giving journalists access to report the stories and conditions of asylum seekers in its care who wanted to speak publicly. Nauru has also signalled it wants more control over how asylum seekers are managed than it had under the Howard government, potentially deepening the isolation of those sent there.
Mr Keke voiced concern for people who could be held there indefinitely, saying Nauru wanted ''to make the process as good as it can be - given what it is''.
''I suspect there will be stress and harm done no matter where they are,'' he said, pointing to mental health concerns about detention in Australia too.
Also expressing concerns yesterday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, stated the initiative could result in violations of human rights with no evidence it would dissuade asylum seekers.
She called on Australian leaders to rethink the asylum policy and ''break an ingrained political habit of demonising migrants and asylum seekers''.
The Sunday Age has also learnt that asylum seekers stripped of the right to apply to bring family members to Australia under the humanitarian program - as recommended by the expert panel last week - would likely also face a financial impost on family reunions.
The panel, led by former defence chief Angus Houston, proposed that all refugees who have arrived by sea - other than children - should lose the right to apply for free for family reunion, citing concern at a 20-year backlog on applications in the humanitarian program.
In future, under the panel's proposals, asylum seekers who had come by boat would only be able to apply to sponsor family members to Australia under the general migration scheme, which charges more than $2000 in visa fees for each relative.
Coalition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison yesterday renewed his attack on the likely impact of the new offshore processing regime, accusing Labor of lacking the resolve to implement an effective deterrence strategy.
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said ''nobody should underestimate the government's resolve here'', and decried any bid to hope the plan wouldn't work.
Nine boats, carrying 475 people, have arrived since the minister said on Monday that all future applicants risked being sent to Nauru or Manus Island for processing.
The developments came as Labor was accused of bypassing its own new human rights laws, which compel it to do a human rights statement on every piece of new legislation put to Parliament. By making amendments to its 2011 offshore processing bill, instead of introducing it as a new bill, the Gillard government side-stepped the obligation.
But a spokesman for Mr Bowen denied any bypassing of the obligation, saying the bill was introduced months before this year's new requirement for a rights statement.
''The government simply moved amendments to give effect to the legislative instrument recommendation of the expert panel - the same panel that detailed some very thorough human rights conditions for those transferred to Manus and Nauru,'' he said.
This material is subject to copyright and any unauthorised use, copying or mirroring is prohibited.
[ Canberra Times | Text-only index]