Australian Asher Wolf's taken to the Guardian to explain why her family is spending Christmas petitioning for humane refugee treatment from the Australian government. Wolf enumerates the conditions under which Australia keeps refugees in its off-shore camps -- conditions that Amenesty considers to be torture, conditions where basic sanitation and health-care are denied to families fleeing war, torture and death threats. Deprived of the shoes, hearing aids, and medicine they managed to smuggle out of their own countries, these refugees, including children, are denied sufficient water, exposed to malaria and TB, and are brutalized into suicide attempts. Gay detainees are sent to camps in PNG, where homosexuality is illegal. Orphans get it even worse -- though the immigration minister Scott Morrison is their legal guardian, these children are left with no one to advocate for them.
According to the UN High Commission on Refugees, the Australian government is spending 1000% more torturing and detaining migrants than it would spend on "community processing" on the mainland. But wasting money on cruelty curries favour with racist voters, so it is the preferred option. For now. But, perhaps, not if Australians in great number write to the minister to explain that his cynical games with innocent human lives will cost him more votes than they win.
When these people arrive at Australian detention centres, they are left with severe sunburn and skin rashes, sitting in clothing drenched with faeces and urine while they await interrogation. Their shoes, glasses and hearing aids are taken away. Any medication they are carrying when they arrive is also confiscated – and often it is months before it is replaced.
Refugees at offshore detention centres sleep in cots on dirt floor, in 50 degree heat, with limited numbers of fans. Drinking water in some camps is being rationed to dangerously low levels – only 500ml per day. The US Centre for Disease Control states that it is possible to get typhoid in Nauru’s water. The detainees are constantly at risk of malaria – yet doctors recommend that children younger than five and pregnant women not take anti-malaria medicine, which is unsuitable for them.
Amnesty found that detainees on Manus Island “have fainted from heat stroke because they are forced to queue for hours in the sun for food.” When the Manus camp flooded, detainees found snakes in their rooms. The toilets are routinely broken or lacking in number, and the conditions in one dormitory were so bad that Amnesty International "considers the accommodation of asylum seekers there a violation of the prohibition on torture and other ill-treatment.”
I write books. My latest is a YA science fiction novel called Homeland (it's the sequel to Little Brother). More books: Rapture of the Nerds (a novel, with Charlie Stross); With a Little Help (short stories); and The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow (novella and nonfic). I speak all over the place and I tweet and tumble, too.