Weekly media wrap 22 June

The Australian government continued to refuse to confirm or deny allegations that immigration and border protection officials paid people smugglers to return asylum seekers to Indonesia. Despite suggestions that this alleged payment to people smugglers may have broken Australian and international law, Prime Minister Tony Abbott stated that he is ‘absolutely confident that at all times Australian agencies have acted within the law’.

Following an Indonesian police investigation, with reports that more than US$30,000 was paid to the smugglers, foreign minister Retno Marsudi requested clarification from the Australian government, stating that ‘in the context we cannot be blamed for believing that there was an illicit payment made on this issue’.

Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Tanya Plibersek, called for the government to provide a full explanation to Indonesia, arguing that ‘it is absolutely vital… to get this relationship back on track.  A Greens motion in the Senate to compel the government to hand over documents relating to these allegations was rejected on the grounds of national security.

Australia's peak health professional bodies released a joint statement calling for urgent amendments to the Australian Border Force Act 2015. The statement criticised the Act's secrecy provisions, which threaten up to two years imprisonment for sharing information about conditions at immigration detention centres. The statement says that the Act ‘actively restricts health professionals from fulfilling their duty to advocate for the best possible patient care’. 

The senate inquiry investigating conditions at the detention centre on Nauru heard from a former Save the Children case manager. The submission included reports of sexual assault and alleged that sexual encounters ‘had been filmed and circulated’ among security staff at the centre.

The UNHCR released an annual Global Trends Report: World at War, stating that displacement was at its highest level in recorded history, with 59.5 million people forcibly displaced at the end of 2014.

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