Weekly media wrap - 8 September 2014

The Manus Island detention centre is being ‘wound down’ as it emerged Immigration Minister Scott Morrison ordered asylum seekers be sent to the Republic of Nauru instead. Leaked reports from the island described increasing self-harm, fighting, and the use of isolation rooms, although government accounts state the centre returned to normal following the death of Iranian man Reza Barati during violence in February. This week, Hamid Kehazaei, a 24-year-old asylum seeker from Iran, died in a Brisbane hospital after a cut to his foot suffered at the Manus Island detention centre became infected.

The Australian Red Cross told staff that 500 jobs will be cut as the immigration department reduces client numbers in its asylum seeker assistance scheme and community assistance support programs from 12,000 to 5000 by June. Security firm Serco retained preferred bidder status for the contract to operate Australia’s onshore immigration detention facilities. Prime Minister Tony Abbott appointed Immigration Secretary Martin Bowles to head the Department of Health for the next five years.

 Mr Morrison announced 412 asylum seekers had returned to their countries through voluntary return packages last month, including one person from Syria, six Iraqis and 48 Iranians. 

The former chief of the Australian Defence Force, Admiral Chris Barrie, criticised Australia’s immigration system, likening detention centres to jails and saying that the government’s policies were a ‘mess that reflect badly on all of us’. The Russian activist rock band Pussy Riot also compared detention centres to modern-day Russian gulags.

Internationally, a court in Sri Lanka found the government did have the right to deport 60 Pakistani refugees despite the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees arguing this breached the principle of non-refoulement. The UNHCR reported more than one million people have been displaced by the conflict in Ukraine, including 814,000 Ukrainians now in Russia. And Uruguay became the first Latin American country to offer full resettlement to Syrian refugees, accepting 120 people from camps in Lebanon who will start arriving at the end of the month.