Weekly media wrap - 27 June 2017

Nauruan police this week charged one asylum seeker detained at the Nauru detention facility with indecent assault of a minor and arrested four others on drug charges. The Department of Immigration and Border Protection told the Courier Mail that they were aware of the relevant allegations, but deemed them to be matters for the Nauru Police Force.

Speaking at the Crawford Australian Leadership Forum this week, immigration department secretary Michael Pezzullo asserted the importance of ending the people smuggling trade. He called on other countries to increase their refugee intake to prevent people from ‘seek[ing] services of smugglers and traffickers’. Australia will increase its annual refugee intake from 12,000 to 18,750 in the 2018-2019 period.

According to UNCHR’s annual report, which was released this week, the global number of refugees fleeing their homes reached a record high of 65.6 million last year. South Sudan became the source of the fastest growing displacement crisis in the world. 

Weekly media wrap - 20 June 2017

The Australian Government agreed to a $70 million settlement to compensate 1900 asylum seekers currently or formerly held on Manus Island for alleged physical and psychological harm. Immigration minister Peter Dutton denied that the settlement is an admission of wrongdoing by the government, saying that the Commonwealth ‘strongly refutes and denies the claims made in these proceedings’.

The United States will tell dozens of refugees held in the Manus Island detention centre whether they will be offered resettlement in America within six weeks. US officials returned this week to Manus Island to conduct medical examinations on 70 men.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull introduced legislation that would require migrants wanting to become Australian citizens to pass an English language test. Labor has decided to oppose the test.

Weekly media wrap - 14 June 2017

Francois Crepeau, the UN special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, published a criticism of Australia’s immigration processing centre on Nauru, calling it a ‘blemish’ on the country’s good human rights record. While praising Australia’s formal refugee resettlement program, he contended that conditions at offshore processing centres were ‘unjustifiably punitive’. The Australian Government rejected Crepeau’s findings, claiming he had made a number of errors of fact and law. 

A six-metre high inflatable sculpture of a refugee created by Belgian art collective Schellekens will feature during Refugee Week on the Yarra River. The artwork draws attention to the current global migration crisis. 

Weekly media wrap - 6 June 2017

Internal emails released under freedom of information laws showed that the Australian Border Force admitted to a failure to appropriately respond to allegations of sexual assault and abuse on Nauru. These findings were not disclosed to the recent parliamentary inquiry into allegations of abuse, self-harm and neglect of asylum seekers on Nauru.

Over 50 members of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, including many from the migration and refugee division, were advised that they will not be reappointed to their roles. The AAT has been heavily criticised in some newspapers and by immigration minister Peter Dutton for overturning government visa decisions in the past year.

The Australian reported that almost 100 asylum seekers who arrived in Australia have been issued adverse security assessments by ASIO or rejected after being flagged by the Five Eyes intelligence network. This includes ‘close to 30 people’ seeking entry through the one-off humanitarian intake of 12,000 Syrian refugees, recently confirmed by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, as well as over 65 people who arrived by boat under the Labor government.

It was reported that a Syrian refugee has been transferred from Nauru to Cambodia for resettlement, as part of the Australian Government’s $55 million arrangement with the Cambodian government made three years ago. The Australian Government has not confirmed the arrival of this refugee.

Coptic Christian asylum seekers in Australia who were previously refused refugee status are being provided with visas to stay in this country while their cases for protection are reviewed. This decision followed violent attacks in Egypt, which have worsened in recent months.

Weekly media wrap - 1 June 2017

A notice was posted at the Manus Island detention facility requiring detainees to move to a new facility in the town of Lorengau, where US officials have begun ‘extreme vetting’ to determine eligibility for the US-Australia refugee resettlement deal. The new facility has a lower standard of medical care and is less secure than the detention centre, with many refugees having reported violence and abuse in the area.

A total of 659 asylum seekers who arrived by boat lodged protection claims in the two weeks before immigration minister Peter Dutton’s four-month deadline on the claims. This leaves 7194 asylum seekers who did not apply by the deadline. Last week, Peter Dutton announced a new immovable deadline of 1 October for these people to make their claims. Refugee legal services told The Guardian that this deadline was impossible to meet.

A class action against the Australian Government on behalf of Manus Island detainees will begin this Wednesday. The lead plaintiff is Majid Kamasee, an Iranian man who has been detained at Manus for several years, but the case will also represent 1905 other asylum seekers. Law firm Slater and Gordon will argue that these people’s imprisonment was illegal and that the conditions in the centre led to ‘serious physical and psychological injuries’. 

Weekly media wrap - 22 May 2017

Immigration minister Peter Dutton announced that approximately 7500 asylum seekers have until 1 October to formally apply for protection, or face deportation from Australia.  Refugee lawyers criticised the move, arguing that many of these asylum seekers were barred from lodging applications until late 2016, with legal centres now overwhelmed by demand.

The Guardian obtained internal working documents from the Manus Island detention centre revealing that a year-long plan has existed to make the site progressively more inhospitable for detainees. The documents, from camp manager Broadspectrum and security contractor Wilson, detail a strategy to pressure the 829 detainees to either resettle in PNG or abandon their asylum claims.

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection confirmed that shots were fired into the Manus Island immigration detention centre on Good Friday. Department secretary Mike Pezzullo reported that nine people were injured in the shooting, including two refugees.

Senate Estimates heard further details about the United States resettlement deal.  While exact resettlement numbers have not been confirmed, the legal and constitutional affairs committee was told that 1440 refugees from Manus Island and Nauru have applied. 

Weekly media wrap - 18 May 2017

In a recording sent to Fairfax Media, a Papua New Guinea immigration official told asylum seekers held at Manus Island that the regional processing centre would be closed by 31 October. Refugees have been given the option to live temporarily at the East Lorengau camp while they wait for resettlement in the USA or to be permanently resettled in PNG. Immigration minister Peter Dutton reiterated that no asylum seekers would be resettled in Australia.

According to an Amnesty International briefing, there was digital verification this week of bullets being fired directly into the Manus Island regional processing centre on 14 April. While the Australian Government has not conducted an investigation into the incident, the PNG Police and PNG Defence Force have launched separate investigations.

In a new budget measure, the government will cut off income support and rental assistance from asylum seekers who have arrived in Australia by boat since 2012 and not lodged visa applications. The 90 days given to these asylum seekers in January to lodge their applications has run out and those who have not applied are set to lose their support.