Weekly media wrap - 22 November 2016

The UNHCR submitted a mental health report to the Senate inquiry into abuse, self-harm and neglect on Nauru and Manus Island. The study reported psychological disorders in 88 per cent of the 181 asylum seekers and refugees who were examined, including depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. According to the report, these findings are ‘amongst the highest recorded rates of any surveyed population’. The study was included in a broader UNHCR submission.

In a Sky News interview with Andrew Bolt, immigration minister Peter Dutton stated that former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser made mistakes in allowing certain migrants into Australia in the 1970s. Claiming that a large number of foreign fighters in conflict zones are descendants of these migrants, Dutton argued that Australia is paying for Fraser’s errors. When challenged during Question Time by opposition leader Bill Shorten, Dutton responded: ‘Of the last 33 people who have been charged with terrorist-related offences in this country, 22 of those people are from second- and third-generation Lebanese-Muslim background’. The Lebanese Muslim Association responded, labelling Dutton’s comments reckless.

Dutton told ABC’s Australian Story that the federal government may accept more refugees from Syria and Iraq. The immigration department has reported that of the 12,000 extra humanitarian visas announced under the Abbott Government in September 2015, 6507 refugees have so far been settled in Australia. Defending the often ‘long and protracted’ security process involved in screening and settling refugees, Dutton suggested that ‘if people have faith in the integrity of the process … it does give the government the ability to expand’. 

Francois Crepeau, United Nations special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, concluded an 18-day visit to Australia, finding that hate speech, xenophobia and nationalism have increased. Impressing the importance of Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth), Crepeau stated: ‘Politicians who have engaged in this negative discourse seem to have given permission to people on the street to act in xenophobic ways and to allow for the rise of nationalist groups’.

In a final meeting between Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and US President Barack Obama, the leaders discussed the agreement for US resettlement of refugees from Nauru and Manus Island. It remains unclear whether President-elect Donald Trump will honour the agreement after he assumes office on January 20, 2017.