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AUSTRALIA was accused by human rights groups yesterday of deliberately ignoring the abuse of asylum-seekers held at the remote Nauru detention facility in the Pacific to deter future refugees.
A scathing joint report by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said that detainees on the island, where Australia sends asylum-seekers, are routinely denied critical medical care, frequently attempt suicide and endure physical assaults by locals.
“Australia’s policy of exiling asylum-seekers who arrive by boat is cruel in the extreme,” said Amnesty International senior research director Anna Neistat.
“Few other countries go to such lengths to deliberately inflict suffering on people seeking safety and freedom.”
Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection criticised the two groups for not consulting the government while preparing the report and said it “strongly refutes many of the allegations.”
The department did not, however, respond to a request about exactly what it was refuting.
Australia refuses to accept any asylum-seekers who attempt to reach its shores by boat, preferring to pay Nauru and Papua New Guinea to hold them, often for years.
Reports of abuse, miserably hot and crowded living conditions and frequent suicide attempts at the detention camps have circulated for years.
Human rights groups have consistently called on Australia to abandon its offshore detention policy, calling the practice a violation of the country’s international human rights obligations.
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