Australia's poor treatment of refugees in offshore detention camps is "draconian" and is causing lasting damage to refugees and to Australia's reputation as a rights-respecting country, Human Rights Watch said on Friday. Conditions in the camps are abusive and detainees "regularly endure violence, threats and harassment", Human Rights Watch said in the Australian chapter of its annual global report. Under Australian rules, anyone intercepted while trying to reach the country by boat is sent for processing to camps in the Pacific Island nation of Nauru and at Manus Island, in Papua New Guinea (PNG). They are never eligible to be resettled in Australia.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Immigration, asked about the report before its release, declined to comment but referred to earlier department assertions that conditions at the camps were adequate and were the responsibility of Nauru and PNG. Those governments did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Australia's tough policy has drawn strong criticism from the United Nations and other international rights organisations amid a global debate on how to manage huge numbers of asylum seekers displaced by conflict. More than 1,990 asylum seekers have drowned on voyages to Australia since January 2000, according to Monash University's Australian Border Deaths Database. (Source: Reuter)