It’s not been a good week for the Australian Government. A few days ago the PNG (Papua New Guinea) Supreme Court declared that the Manus Island refugee detention centre was unconstitutional and contrary to all notions of human rights. A couple of days later the PNG prime minister stated that the facility should close as soon as possible (see letter below). The Australian Government is also to be sued for compensation that could amount to more than 1 million dollars for their illegal detention of people on Manus.
And now it has been revealed that Ferrovial, the Spanish company that owns more than 50% of the shares of Broadspectrum (formerly Transfield) and which hopes to buy it outright, has announced it intends to withdraw from the detention centre business. If this materialises this would leave the Australian Government without a prime company to manage its offshore detention centres (although it may decide to contract the Broadspectrum services out to Serco or G4S) . This includes the detention centre at Nauru, which is currently seeing its 43rd day of an ongoing protest by refugees. All this, after a week when one of the Iranian refugees at Nauru set fire to himself rather than be forced back to Iran, where he feared death (he later died from his injuries after it took the Australian authorities more than 24 hours to provide adequate treatment).
Now is the time for Australians to give the boot to this entirely illegal, immoral, inhuman and neo-colonialist ‘Pacific Solution’ that successive Australian governments have practised in complete disregard of world condemnation. The offshore detainees, held arbitrarily in contravention of UN protocols – many after being kidnapped by the Australian navy on the high seas – should be released. This could be organised via a coordinated program supervised by Amnesty International. New Zealand has already offered to take an initial 150 refugees; more countries may well make similar offers.
This approach would be the ‘Peoples Pacific Solution’.
(BREAKING: Another young man has attempted self immolation at the Nauru detention centre: yesterday afternoon the 20 year old known as Milad doused himself with petrol, but was arrested before he could follow through with the act; he is known to have mental health issues, as do many if not all of the refugees on the 22km square island, which is being used by Australia as a human dumping ground as part of its refugee policies – this is at least the sixth suicide attempt in the last week.)
Here is an extract from a statement by Ferrovial: “In relation to the provision of services at the regional processing centres in Nauru and Manus province, these services were not a core part of the valuation and the acquisition rationale of the offer, and it is not a strategic activity in Ferrovial’s portfolio. Ferrovial’s view is that this activity will not form part of its services offering in the future”.
Should, however, Ferrovial decide to act otherwise, there are plenty of militant workers in Spain – where there is a long and continuing tradition of union militancy and industrial and community action – who, no doubt, would be more than happy to show their solidarity with the refugees detained.
Here’s a good analysis by X Border of the Ferrovial takeover bid.
Here is a comprehensive listing of all the companies and (mainly Christian) NGOs that have profited so far from the Pacific Solution (i.e. illegal detention of refugees).
Appendix A: laws Australia has contravened:
The Australian Government has obligations regarding several international treaties to ensure human rights are respected and protected. These treaties include:
- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
- International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
- Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT)
- Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
These rights include the right not to be arbitrarily detained. As a party to the Refugee Convention, Australia also agreed to ensure that asylum seekers who meet the definition of a refugee are not sent back to a country where their life or freedom would be threatened. This is known as the principle of non-refoulement. Australia also has obligations not to return people who face a real risk of violation of certain human rights under the ICCPR, the CAT and the CRC, and not to send people to third countries where they would face a real risk of violation of their human rights under these instruments. These obligations also apply to people who have not been found to be refugees.
Under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) articles 6 & 7, Australia also has an obligation not to send someone to a place where their life may be in danger or where they may be subject to cruelty or inhumane treatment. If it is shown that asylum-seekers are subjected to cruelty or inhumane treatment at Manus Island (or Nauru) then the Australian Government would be in breach of the convention.
Four submissions have been made to the International Criminal Court regarding Australia’s ‘Pacific Solution’.
Note re ICC and Crimes Against Humanity: an explanation
The ICC was established in 2002 at The Hague in the Netherlands, by way of the Rome Statute and was given jurisdiction over the prosecution of crimes relating to genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
The definition of “crime against humanity” for ICC proceedings has significantly broadened from its original legal definition or that used by the United Nations.
Article 7 of the Rome Statute states that:
For the purpose of this Statute, “crime against humanity” means any of the following acts when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack:
(d) Deportation or forcible transfer of population;
(e) Imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law;
(g) Rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity;
(h) Persecution against any identifiable group or collectivity on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender as defined in paragraph 3, or other grounds that are universally recognized as impermissible under international law, in connection with any act referred to in this paragraph or any crime within the jurisdiction of the Court;
(i) Enforced disappearance of persons;
(j) The crime of apartheid;
- (k) Other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health;
Thus “Crimes against humanity” are defined by the Rome Statute of the ICC Explanatory Memorandum as “. . . particularly odious offences in that they constitute a serious attack on human dignity or grave humiliation or a degradation of human beings.” Such crimes are required to “not be isolated or sporadic events”, but be part either of a government policy (although the perpetrators need not identify themselves with this policy) or of a wide practice of atrocities tolerated or condoned by a government or a de facto authority.
The section “Imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law” could be argued as bringing asylum-seeker policy within the definition, given the lengthy periods asylum-seekers are detained at Manus Island and Nauru and the enormously lengthy periods taken to process them and eventually if ever resettle them. Terms like ”other inhumane acts” and ”intentionally caus[ing] great suffering or serious bodily or mental injury” may cover asylum-seeker policies that limit access to medical treatment, keep children in detention and alike.
Appendix B: statement from PNG prime minister: