A 24 year-old has been killed in Australia's Manus Island detention camp. Another died of an easily treatable infection. Other accounts tell of horrific violence; people being pulled from under beds and hiding places only to be assaulted.
At Nauru, women and children have been sexually and physically assaulted for the last 17 months with no consequences for the perpetrators.
But what's more – that may be just scratching the surface. The government has banned journalist access to the Manus Island detention centre, meaning we're left with few independent accounts. Verifying fact from fiction is becoming near-impossible, especially now that asylum seekers' internet access has been cut. Government accounts directly contradict first-hand reports coming out of Manus Island, and journalists are being barred from entering detention and having their photos deleted.
This secrecy and lack of information from the Immigration Department is terrifying. Not only because of how shocking the first-hand accounts coming out of our detention centres are – but because, above all I thought our government would always respect transparency & honesty.
A free press, with the ability to scrutinise the activities of our government is a fundamental aspect of Australian democracy. Tony Abbott himself said as much this morning: "I do want to make this point and make it very strongly: a free press is in everyone’s interests."
If Tony Abbott truly believes a free press is important, he needs to end the banning of journalists from these Australian facilities immediately.
I continue to speak to people over on Nauru and Manus Island, as well as dozens who have come to Darwin for medical treatment. It's tense, and getting worse. There's widespread confusion and concern. And they don't know that the world will know if tragedy strikes again.
Minister Peter Dutton is under enormous public pressure after a series of incidents inside detention centres and concerning data breaches. Now is the time the Australian public must demand basic transparency from our government.
As we have witnessed, secrecy enables human rights abuse. Minister, immediately allow journalists full access to report the facts on Manus Island detention centre.
For more information see Amnesty International's report: The truth about Manus, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees' (UNHCR) latest report on Manus Island from October 2013. Also see the powerful letter from current and former staff at Nauru detailing abuse and neglect on Nauru, and the Government's own Moss Report on abuse and conditions at Nauru.
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