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Asylum seeker ‘hush up’ law criticised

Tuesday 30 June 2015 | Published in Regional


SYDNEY – An Australian paediatrician has spoken up about a new law in Australia banning people from speaking out about what they see on Nauru.

David Isaacs worked in Australia’s offshore detention centre on Nauru last December, where he said he witnessed a six-year-old who had tried to hang herself and a 15-year-old who had sewn up his lips.

The Australian Government has just passed a new law preventing anyone working at a detention centre speaking publicly about what they see. The new law takes effect on 1 July.

Dr Isaacs said he saw 30 children while working in the detention centre last December, all of whom had been detained for more than a year.

He said the children showed signs of the horrific treatment they were subjected to in the centre.

“The six-year-old child who had strangulation marks around her neck from trying to hang herself with a fence tie, the 15-year-old boy who sewed his lips up because that’s the only way he could protest without getting angry and getting his parents and himself into trouble, so this desperate sort of way of doing things.”

Meanwhile, another law relating to the asylum seeker centres has sparked criticism against Tony Abbott’s Government.

The Government and Opposition Labor Party this week voted together to pass laws to close a reported loophole in the legality of the system for processing asylum seekers offshore.

The legislation was rushed through within 24 hours at the end of the parliament session.

Senators with the Greens said the law changes would keep asylum seekers and refugees indefinitely detained on Nauru and Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island, despite serious concerns about camp conditions.

Greens’ immigration spokesperson Sarah Hanson-Young said the Abbott Government had rammed through laws in order to scuttle a case assessing the legality of the detention centres in the High Court.

She said it was not refugees who were illegal but the detention of them that had been unlawful.

Hanson-Young said the Parliament had squandered an opportunity to fix some of the worst and most harmful aspects of offshore detention but, since Labor sided with Abbott, children would continue to be sent to detention camps on Nauru.

She said it was extremely disappointing and the move meant children and women would remain indefinitely detained in the unsafe and squalid camp on Nauru.