Weekly media round-up No. 50

Psychiatrists, bioethicists, human rights lawyers, novelists, priests and refugee advocates published a collective document accusing the Australian government of inhumane treatment of asylum seekers and demanding an end to mandatory detention and offshore processing.

Dr Peter Young, former director of mental health for International Health and Medical Services (IHMS) and chief psychiatrist responsible for the care of asylum seekers in detention for the past three years, accused the immigration department of deliberately inflicting harm on vulnerable people in an extended interview with The Guardian. He received support from peak medical bodies for speaking publically.

One hundred and fifty-seven Tamil asylum seekers transferred to Nauru in late July were allegedly offered lifeboats and instructed to row themselves back to India. Immigration minister Scott Morrison explained the decision to return them to Nauru was due to the asylums seekers’ refusal to speak with Indian consulates.  A spokesman for the Indian high commission said India never agreed to accept the return of any of the Tamil asylum seekers who were not Indian citizens.

Five Save the Children employees working in the detention centre for families on Nauru were suspended for encouraging or engaging asylum seekers who were peacefully protesting.

Mr Morrison called for a reinterpretation of the Refugee Convention which would require asylum seekers to change their behaviour or employment to avoid persecution. The matter will be considered by the High Court.

The Department of Defence released its report into the allegations that asylum seekers suffered burnt hands on board a boat as it was turned back to Indonesia in January. The defence report found no evidence supporting the claim.

The Australian Lawyers Alliance obtained documents from the immigration department which shows that since coming into power the Abbott Government has spent more than $3 million to encourage approximately 1110 asylum seekers to return to the country from which they fled.

Fairfax Media reported that at least 25 delegates who attended the 20th International AIDS conference in Melbourne in late July intend to seek asylum in Australia.