Weekly media wrap - 11 June 2019

Self-harm and suicide attempts have recently increased amongst refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island, sparking increased tensions and the deployment of a PNG paramilitary police unit. This crisis has also led to local hospitals being overrun as asylum seekers are being referred on to locally-funded health services despite Australia spending over $20 million on a healthcare contract with another hospital. 

Australia has been internationally condemned for detaining a blind and mentally ill Tamil refugee, known as Kumar, for almost a decade. A United Nations working group stated that Kumar’s detention is a contravention of Australia’s human rights and international legal obligations. The group called on Australia to release Kumar from detention and offer compensation and reparations. Kumar was recognised by Australia as a refugee in 2010, and a previous adverse security assessment was overturned in 2016.  

Labor’s Home Affairs spokeswoman, Kristina Keneally, claimed that an increasing number of asylum seekers are now reaching Australia via airplane. Keneally condemned the Australian Government’s efforts to maintain control of Australia’s air borders over the past four years, and questioned why aerial patrols of Australia’s borders were halted for an unknown period of time.

Weekly media wrap - 3 June 2019

In the federal government’s post-election re-shuffle, the department of home affairs, led by Peter Dutton, regained responsibility for refugee settlement services and migrant adult education. Since 2013 these functions have been performed by the departments of social services and education. Refugee support groups criticised the move. 

A boat carrying 20 Sri Lankan asylum seekers was intercepted on its way to Australia. The group of Sri Lankans, which included at least one baby, was returned to Colombo following the rejection of their asylum claims. The boat had left Sri Lanka in the first week of May, following the country’s Easter bombing attacks

The US attorney responsible for bringing charges against two Rwandan men, Gregoire Nyaminani and Leonidas Bimenyimana, stated that the United States had been ‘certain’ the two were members of a Hutu terror group. The men were recently re-settled in Australia as part of the federal government’s deal with the US, a decision that has been criticised by immigration experts and lawyers. 

In international news, an internal UN document revealed that more than half the refugees currently held in Libyan detention centres are at risk due to the deteriorating security situation in and around Tripoli. The UNHCR called for all refugees to be evacuated from the detention centres.

Weekly media wrap - 26 May 2019

Following its re-election last Saturday, the Coalition government has prioritised a repeal of the medical evacuation laws passed in February 2019. The Treasurer Josh Frydenberg confirmed there is budget available to keep the Christmas Island centre open, should the Senate block the repeal bill. 

Since the outcome of the election on Saturday, Manus Island- and Nauru-based refugees and advocates have voiced their concern about the re-elected Morrison government. They, and doctors on the islands, reported a surge in apparent suicide attempts and self-harm on both islands since the election, although there have been varied reports on the number of cases. 

The Guardian reported that more than 40 people have been transferred to Australia for urgent medical treatment from Manus Island and Nauru since the passing of the medical evacuation laws earlier this year. The Medical Evacuation Response Group (Merg), which is triaging the asylum seekers and refugees seeking medical care, said they were receiving an average of 11 applications a day. 

Families in a Syrian refugee camp wrote to Prime Minister Scott Morrison urgently seeking evacuation. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the letter urges the Morrison government to evacuate at least 30 Australian children detained in this refugee camp for Islamic State families. The families are seeking urgent help as a result of dangerous and squalid conditions, significant injuries, illnesses and malnourishment. The letter was sent to the Prime Minister via Save The Children. 

Weekly media wrap - 18 May 2019

News outlet Politico reported that two Rwandan men accused of mass murder and detained by the US were granted humanitarian visas by Australia as part of the federal government’s resettlement deal with the US. Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed the men were in Australia but said they had been screened by security agencies.

A Tamil family detained by immigration authorities in March last year lost their final appeal for asylum and will likely be deported to Sri Lanka. The family are at the centre of a grassroots campaign driven by their local community in Biloela, central Queensland. Labor leader Bill Shorten vowed to reopen the case if he wins the federal election.

The Chinese-Australian community paid tribute to former Prime Minister Bob Hawke, who passed away on Thursday, for his decision to offer asylum to thousands of Chinese students and their families in the wake of the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989.

Six former Afghani soldiers who sought asylum in Australia after last October's Invictus Games in Sydney were granted permanent protection visas.

The UNHCR said at least 65 people drowned when their boat capsized in the Mediterranean Sea off the Tunisian coast. It was one the deadliest shipwrecks involving migrants trying to reach Europe this year.

Weekly media wrap - 13 May 2019

In the lead-up to the federal election, Prime Minister Scott Morrison claimed that the current US resettlement deal still has scope to resettle hundreds more refugees. The Liberal party also won’t rule out New Zealand’s previous offer to take 150 refugees from Australia’s offshore detention. Meanwhile, Labor claimed it will use the US refugee deal to scope a potential resettlement arrangement with New Zealand, and may pursue other third-country options to get people off Manus Island and Nauru. Check out Asylum Insight’s Special Election Explainer for more details on the parties’ policies. 

Labor’s Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong slammed a campaign which it claims is spreading false content about Labor’s refugee policies. The WeChat campaign, from an influential Chinese social media site, claimed that a future Labor government would increase humanitarian intake at least tenfold over the next decade and would allow visas to five or six of each refugee’s relatives. Labor is requesting that the Liberal party rule out any involvement in this campaign. 

Refugee support workers on Manus Island claimed they were directed to falsify reporting documents to make it appear that they were meeting government requirements. Some workers resigned in protest after being asked to falsify records, including writing fraudulent files for clients they had not seen and completing management plans for refugees without any assessment.

Weekly media wrap - 6 May 2019

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the federal government’s plan to cap refugee intake numbers at the current rate of 18,750 a year for the next three years if the coalition is re-elected. Morrison detailed the particulars of the refugee intake program, which includes an increased offshore component target of 60 per cent for women, as well as an aim to resettle 40 per cent of arrivals in regional areas. 

Victorian children’s commissioner Liana Buchanan increased calls for the federal government to provide access to detention centres, following reports from advocates that at least five children under the age of seven are detained at the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation Centre facility. Priya, a Tamil mother currently detained at the centre with her family, accused the government of failing to give adequate medical care to her youngest daughter, Tharnicaa, who is almost 2 years old. 

The partner of Omid Masoumali, an Iranian refugee who died after setting himself on fire on Nauru in April 2016, is suing the Australian Government and International Heath and Medical Services (IHMS) for failing to provide adequate medical care for her husband.

The Nauruan government failed to approve the contract extension of Canstruct, the company responsible for managing the island’s processing centre, until hours before it was due to expire. The stand-off, which saw Canstruct and Wilson inform caseworkers and other stakeholders that they were ‘demobilising’, resulted in chaos and confusion for asylum seekers and refugees, who were told to clear out of the centre and warned that healthcare may cease. 

A new global survey found that 46 per cent of Australian respondents believed immigration should be reduced, while 23 per cent thought it should be increased. In a national poll, conducted by Essential Media, 51 per cent of respondents believed immigration was ‘generally positive’ for the country, while 35 per cent thought it was ‘generally negative’. 

Weekly media wrap - 29 April 2019

The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre released a report which found that a federal government decision to change the eligibility requirements for Status Resolution Support Services (SRSS) – a welfare program for community-based asylum seekers – had created a ‘housing and hunger crisis’. 

The Government of Nauru rejected comments by former president, Sprent Dabwido, that the country’s offshore detention deal with Australia had led to corruption and greed on the island.

The UNHCR evacuated 325 African refugees – mainly Eritrean, Sudanese and Nigerian – from the Qasr Ben Gashir detention centre in Libya because of deteriorating security and escalating violence.

In the USA, the FBI arrested the leader of a right-wing militia that was detaining migrant families at gunpoint near the border in southern New Mexico.