Weekly media wrap - 17 February 2018

A further 18 refugees left Manus Island for resettlement in the United States of America, in addition to the 22 who left the island earlier in the week. The Australian reported that it is expected that more refugees who are currently on Manus Island and Nauru will transfer to the United States by the end of this month, bringing the total number of people accepted to about 200. Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton confirmed that 135 refugees had transferred to the United States from Manus Island and Nauru. UNHCR raised concern about Australia’s offshore regime and urged for alternative solutions to be found.

Two groups of asylum seekers from El Salvador were in Costa Rica, reportedly for clearance to resettle in Australia, however immigration officials denied a link to the refugee deal with the United States.

A Sri Lankan asylum seeker was ordered for deportation from Australia on 22 February by the Australian Border Force. The Tamil asylum seeker has reportedly refused to sign the order. The United Nations Committee Against Torture requested in October 2017 that Australia not move the asylum seeker while it investigates whether he will be tortured if he is returned against his will.

While Japan received 19,628 applications for refugee status, only 20 asylum seekers were accepted last year. Figures released this week showed that the number of applicants in 2017 rose by 80% from a year earlier, when 28 out of almost 11,000 requests were recognised.

Weekly media wrap - 13 February 2018

Twenty-two refugees left Nauru for resettlement in the United States, under a bilateral agreement between the US and Australia. The group, who were almost all single men from Afghanistan, Iran and Myanmar, are the fourth transfer from Australian-led offshore centres under the deal. Around 110 refugees have been transferred under the agreement, with around 2000 asylum seekers and refugees still in Nauru and Papua New Guinea.

In 2016-17, 24,162 refugees and humanitarian entrants arrived in Australia, the biggest year on record. This number includes Australia’s annual humanitarian program, and a special intake of refugees from Iraq and Syria.

UNHCR released the ‘zero draft’ of the global compact on refugees, a non-binding agreement to better deal with refugee crises. Formal talks on the compact begin this month in Geneva.

Weekly media wrap - 3 February 2018

Secret government documents obtained by the ABC – the ‘Cabinet Files’ – revealed that in 2013 then immigration minister Scott Morrison tried to prevent asylum seekers from being granted permanent protection visas by directing ASIO to delay their security checks. It is not known if ASIO complied with the request. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull defended Morrison’s actions, arguing Morrison had ‘stopped the boats’ during his tenure. Refugee advocates accused Morrison of having no regard for the law, and said his actions had torn families apart.

Reports from Bangladesh suggested the annual cyclone and monsoon season could threaten the lives of more than 800,000 Rohingya asylum seekers in camps along the Bangladesh-Myanmar border. Meanwhile, protesters in towns near the refugee camps, while sympathetic to the plight of the Rohingya, demanded that the Bangladesh Government arrange for them to be safely sent back to Myanmar.

Weekly media wrap - 28 January 2018

Fifty-eight refugees on Manus Island flew to the USA after being accepted for resettlement. Another group of 130 refugees on Nauru are expected to follow in coming days or weeks. This group of nearly 200 refugees form the second cohort to gain resettlement under the US deal

An Iranian asylum seeker on Manus Island was force fed in a PNG hospital after nearly two weeks on a hunger strike. According to hospital staff, the 42-year-old was tied to a hospital bed while receiving intravenous treatment. A nurse at the hospital said he could die if not taken to Australia for treatment.

Fifty-five Indonesian minors joined a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission after being jailed as adults in Australia for people-smuggling offenses. The minors who crewed asylum seeker boats want compensation and have signalled potential legal action against the Australian government.

Research conducted by the Norwegian Refugee Council and the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre found that 72% of Afghan refugees who return home after living abroad are forced to flee violence internally. The study, which came after a deadly attack on Save the Children’s office in Jalalabad, found that the large majority of internally displaced Afghan families do not receive aid. 

Weekly media wrap - 20 January 2018

The federal government refused a senate request to release documents regarding the construction of the new Australian-built asylum seeker facilities on Manus Island. The senate requested the documents and contracts in December 2017, seeking detail about the health, construction and security services to be provided at the facilities. Immigration minister Peter Dutton claimed that releasing such documents may cause damage to Australia’s international relations with Papua New Guinea.

The security of the Manus Island detention facilities is under threat due to a contract dispute between two security companies. Employees from Paladin Solutions, the Australian-contracted security firm, were blocked from entering the facilities by locally-owned firm Kingfisher Security, who are claiming their right to the lucrative contract. The visa applications of many foreign private security guards employed by Paladin Solutions were rejected by PNG’s Chief Immigration Officer, with claims that the company must employ more local workers.

The full bench of the federal court condemned a decision by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to reject the asylum appeal of a homosexual Indian man who argued that he would face persecution due to his sexuality if returned to India. The court criticised the Tribunal’s assertion that the asylum seeker in this case was not homosexual.

Tim Costello, chief advocate of World Vision Australia, expressed that ‘Manus is my government’s cruelty’ following a recent visit to Manus Island as part of a delegation of humanitarian experts. Costello described the absence of hope amongst the asylum seekers he met. Meanwhile, Australia’s offshore detention regime was internationally shamed through a recent Human Rights Watch annual world report stating that Australia ‘maintained its cruel practice of warehousing asylum seekers in abysmal conditions’.

The Australian Council for International Development and The Guardian Australia launched ‘Beyond the Wire’, a new site with personal stories of asylum seekers on Manus Island as well as local Manusians. The site provides ‘unvarnished and unscripted’ accounts from the people themselves. New stories will be released each week.

Weekly media wrap - 13 January 2018

A refugee on Nauru has been waiting for over a year to be transferred from Australia’s offshore immigration centre on Nauru for medical treatment. Doctors have warned that the refugee presents a ‘medical emergency’, but are concerned that he has now become ‘too sick to transfer’ because he may never be well enough to return to Nauru. The Australian Border Force has not made a decision on the refugee’s transfer despite Nauruan authorities twice approving his transfer.

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spent $100,000 to host a tour for six European journalists and a think tank researcher to showcase Australia's approach to immigration policy. The tour focused on multiculturalism and refugee policy in Australia, and included briefings with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection to discuss Operation Sovereign Borders.

Israel announced that people predominantly from Eritrea and Sudan whose applications for asylum fail must leave the state within three months with a lump sum cash payment or they could be imprisoned. Under this program, thousands of people are reportedly being offered nearly $4,500 and a plane ticket if they leave the country by March. The UNHCR appealed to Israel to halt this policy of relocating Eritreans and Sudanese to sub-Saharan Africa.

Japan is limiting asylum seekers’ right to work in an effort to respond to a system of ‘back-door immigration’. These changes to Japan’s refugee system are reportedly likely to increase the numbers of those in detention centres.

Weekly media wrap - 10 January 2018

The Australian Treasury reported that border policies cost $4 billion in 2016–17. The Australian Financial Review reported that this figure comprised $1.57 billion for detention within Australia, $1.08 billion for offshore centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea, and $1.06bn on border enforcement. As a result, the yearly cost of holding one person in onshore detention in 2017-18 was $346,178.

At end 2017, according to the new home affairs department, there were 1301 people in onshore detention facilities, including 988 in detention on the mainland and 313 on Christmas Island. There are a further 339 people on Nauru and 801 people in Papua New Guinea (of which 616 have been recognised as refugees).

In 2017, 171,802 people arrived in Europe by sea, around half the number of 2016. The International Organization for Migration reported 3116 people dead or missing in the Mediterranean, the fourth consecutive year of over three thousand deaths.