Weekly media wrap 10 August 2015

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton announced 20 boats carrying more than 630 asylum seekers have been turned back since December 2013, with the most recent incident being the confirmed return of 46 asylum seekers to Vietnam last month.

A statement from the commander of Operation Sovereign Borders indicated that border officials had assisted asylum seekers in May 2015 when they had turned back a distressed boat whose crew was allegedly paid to return to Indonesia.  The statement was provided to a parliamentary committee investigating whether cash or other inducements were paid for boat turn-backs.

The Australian government has reportedly removed an undisclosed number of Iranian asylum seekers on bridging visas from their communities and returned them to detention facilities. The Department of Immigration and Border Protection said it was working to resolve cases of ‘failed asylum seekers’ currently living in communities.

The Papua New Guinea government has ordered a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to alcohol and drugs among staff at the Manus Island immigration detention centre, including regular substance testing. This comes after the alleged rape of a local woman who worked at the centre. The Australian immigration department has maintained that the Australian operator of the centre upholds strict drug and alcohol policy.

The Australian Government is expected to soon make a decision on a five-year contract for running detention centres on both Nauru and Manus Island, the ABC reports Transfield and Serco are being considered.

In an interim report released this week, the Australian Law Reform Commission suggested that a range of federal laws be reviewed in light of their potential interference with “traditional freedoms”. This has included law that extend the Australian government’s powers over asylum seekers who arrive by boat. 

UNHCR officials visited Greece this week to assess the refugee crisis. The number of refugees and migrants arriving by sea has risen by 750% in one year in this country, with 50,000 new arrivals having been reported in the month of July 2015. 

Read the Kaldor Centre's Weekly News Roundup.