Australia’s bid for a seat on the Human Rights Council is in jeopardy over the country’s extreme immigration procedures, which an American pro-life activist got to experience first-hand.
Troy Newman, a pro-life activist based in Kansas, was granted a visa to go to Australia for 10 days to speak at a variety of events. During his flight Down Under, his visa got revoked on the grounds that he was an extremist for being pro-life and opposing abortions. Terri Butler, a member of parliament, had sent a letter to Minister of Immigration Peter Dutton where she called for a review on whether Newman’s presence in Australia would “cause significant harm to our society.” When he reached the airport he was sent to a detention center where he had to spend three days in solitary confinement.
“It was horrendous,” Newman told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “It’s a facility where they keep people that are there illegally. I had no ability to communicate with the outside world, sounds like a jail to me.”
Newman fell victim to an immigration system that the United Nations claims violates human rights. The Aussies have long been criticized for their treatment of arriving refugees, and a lurid history of not doing anything to preventing hundreds of illegal immigrant drownings off the coast.
The country started to enforce mandatory detention for anyone arriving to the country without a valid visa in 1992 to deter refugees from even trying. Unlike most countries, where a person may stay temporarily pending the outcome of the application, Australia sends anyone without a valid visa straight to a detention center for an indefinite period of time. The Migration Amendment Bill 2014 and The Migration Act 1958 – Section 501 give the immigration minster the right to reject anyone based on “character,” which was the case with Newman.
“It’s a radical, totalitarian government,” Newman told TheDCNF. “First thing they do is they jail people for political dissonance, next thing they execute them.”
The detention centers are often located on remote tropical islands in foreign territories. Violence, abuse and escape attempts are part of everyday life and a UN report from March suggests they violate international regulations on human rights.
“The government of Australia, by failing to provide adequate detention conditions; end the practice of detention of children; and put a stop to the escalating violence and tension at the regional processing centre, has violated the right of the asylum seekers including children to be free from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment,” the report from UN special rapporteur Juan Mendez read.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has defended the policy and points at a decline in refugee drownings by sea during his administration.
“I really think Australians are sick of being lectured to by the United Nations, particularly given that we have stopped the boats, and by stopping the boats, we have ended the deaths at sea,” he said in response to the UN report.
What exactly takes place at the detention centers is fairly unknown. The government outsources maintenance to private contractors for billions of dollars and has little oversight on the practices. Access is so restricted that Senator Nova Peris was denied entry to a center within her own constituency Monday. Staff and medical personnel on the islands risk jail time for speaking out about the conditions in accordance with confidentiality agreements, and asylum seekers have no granted right to legal representation while their cases are getting processed.
As Australia is seeking a seat in the UN Human Rights Council, a national debate over the detention centers has erupted once again.
“Our harsh and cruel treatment of asylum seekers and refugees is damaging our international reputation and damaging our ability to advance our national interest, whether it’s through being elected to the Human Rights Council … or in other negotiations,” said Hugh de Kretser, executive director of the Human Rights Law Centre.
The Abbott administration is currently under fire for an argument with a 24-year old Somali refugee who claims she was denied abortion after getting raped in detention.
The woman was originally granted the abortion and was flown to the mainland Oct. 11 for the procedure. After arriving in Brisbane for the procedure, she suddenly had a change of hearts and decided she wanted to follow through with the pregnancy. At least according to Dutton.
“We provided a charter flight for this lady to come to Australia, she received medical assistance and made a decision that she didn’t wish to go ahead with the procedure,” he told Radio National.
But the woman has a different story. Her attorney said her damaged physical and mental state made her want to hold off for another day.
“It took two days in emergency in the Nauruan hospital for them to get her in a state to come to Australia. And what she simply had said to the nurse at Villawood was that I can’t have the operation today, I’m not well enough mentally and physically. I will tell you tomorrow or the next day,” the attorney said according to ABC Australia.
Demonstrations are now taking place on the streets of Sydney to close the “prison camps.”
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