Weekly media wrap - 17 March 2018

Refugee advocacy groups claimed that government cuts to the status resolution support service (SRSS) provided to around 12,000 asylum seekers leave them at risk of poverty and homelessness.

A Sri Lankan family remains in Australia, after an attempted deportation by the Australian Border Force. The family of four has lived in Australia for four years. The mother, Priya, has not received a final rejection of her asylum claim.

An Iranian refugee in Nauru, Fatemeh, was flown to Taiwan for critical heart surgery. Previously, the surgery was planned for Australia, but the Australian Border Force would not allow her son to travel with her. Fatemeh and her son, 17, flew to Taipei at Australian government expense.

Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei criticised Australian asylum policy while visiting the country for the Sydney Biennale. He said, ‘There is no excuse for any kind of policy which does not consider or protect very basic human rights.’

Weekly media wrap - 3 March 2018

Dangerous mould levels at the Nauru detention centre continued to make news. A former worker at the centre revealed the then Department of Immigration paid $50,000 for a dangerous and ineffective industrial steam cleaner to tackle the problem, while leaked emails revealed then centre operator Transfield worried asylum seekers would riot over mould levels. The microbiologist contracted by Transfield in 2014 to assess the mould said the contamination was ‘of epic proportions’.

ASIO Director-General Duncan Lewis denied the agency slowed down visa processing for asylum seekers who came to Australia by boat before 2013 – as requested by the Department of Immigration in 2013 – but said the cohort was a lower priority. Mr Lewis said it was not unusual for ASIO to receive letters from the Secretary of the Department of Immigration.

Australia’s first session as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council was undermined by a report from the UN’s special rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, stating that deterrence-based refugee policies are fundamentally wrong. The report said deterrence policies – like Australia's offshore program – were the major reason migrants were exploited and abused.

A group of Coptic Christian asylum seekers in Melbourne appealed directly to Immigration Minister Peter Dutton to avoid deportation to Egypt when their visas expire within weeks. Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan asylum seeker deported from Australia last week due to the Australian Government’s scepticism of his claimed links to the Tamil Tigers has allegedly been harassed by Sri Lankan security forces since his return.

The National Gallery of Victoria ended its contract with Wilson Security, but did not state that it was due to the company's involvement in offshore detention. The gallery was consistently petitioned by national and international artists and activists to sever ties with the security company implicated in the Nauru Files.

In Israel, more than 20,000 people protested against a government policy of detaining and deporting African asylum seekers who refuse to leave the country. Seven Eritrean asylum seekers have already been transferred to an Israeli prison indefinitely after refusing to be deported to Rwanda.

Weekly media wrap - 24 February 2018

A further 35 refugees departed Nauru to the US, the third cohort of refugees to leave Nauru as part of the Australia-US resettlement deal. Over 200 refugees have now flown to the US from either Nauru or Manus Island under this deal. The majority of this third cohort to depart Nauru are from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Myanmar; Iranians are reportedly being excluded from the deal due to the  US ‘Travel Ban’ which affects people from six Muslim-majority countries attempting to enter the US.

Asylum seekers on Manus Island were allegedly attacked and injured by PNG Defence Force soldiers while walking through town in Lorengau, the closest town to the Australian-run accommodation facilities. The injured men were subsequently transferred to hospital for treatment. PNG Police warned asylum seekers in the Australian-run facilities to stay indoors and not venture into town, provoking further fears for safety.

A Sri Lankan asylum seeker is expected to be deported from Australia due to the Australian Government’s scepticism of his claimed links to the Tamil Tigers. The asylum seeker claims that he once built warships for the Tamil Tigers and states that he will face torture, disappearance or death if returned to Sri Lanka. This follows a recent decision by the United Nations Committee Against Torture to lift a temporary deportation ban on the man. International concerns remain over the dangers that Tamil asylum seekers risk facing upon being returned to Sri Lanka.

Amnesty International’s annual global human rights assessment condemned Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers and refugees in offshore detention centres, claiming that asylum seekers and refugees on Nauru and Manus Island are subjected to cruel, degrading, and brutal treatment as well as neglect and abuse. The assessment also found that the increase in hate-filled rhetoric and policies in Australia has fuelled bigotry and discrimination against minority groups.

In other news, former Prime Minister Tony Abbott linked Australia’s migration intake with cost and quality of living issues in Australia, and proposed slashing the intake by 80,000 migrants per year. Abbott’s comments caused a flurry of responses and rebuttals from his coalition colleagues; Treasurer Scott Morrison claimed that such a reduction in migration would negatively impact on the budget billions per year, and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann stated the importance of skilled migration to enable economic growth.

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.