As people who were detained indefinitely in Australia’s offshore camps on Nauru and Manus Island, Papua New Guinea, and as professionals who were employed there, we are deeply concerned that the UK government will attempt this week to grant itself the same power to send people seeking asylum to offshore detention centres.
We have watched with dismay as the UK government has drafted legislation that allows for the indefinite detention offshore of women, men and children, refused a probing amendment to exclude survivors of trafficking and torture from being sent to offshore detention centres, and ignored the failings and financial costs of the Australian experiment, which saw the Australian government spend £8.6bn to detain 3,127 people in appalling conditions, while failing to end dangerous boat journeys.
Two of us lost a combined 13 years of our lives trapped in offshore camps, with no indication of when we would be free. Others in the same situation lost their lives. The authorities insisted we would never reach Australia. Now, like more than two-thirds of the people detained offshore, we are recognised refugees, living in the US and Australia. We cannot imagine why any country would replicate such a cruel, costly and ultimately futile system.
Finally, consider why a government that has no intention of detaining children offshore would give itself the power to do so. Or why any law that claims to protect people entitled to asylum would instead hide them away in offshore detention camps.
Thanush Selvarasa and Elahe Zivardar Former offshore detainees, Dr Nick Martin and Carly Hawkins Former medical officer and former teacher, Nauru detention centre
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