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Letter to Editor Coffs Advocate 20 August 2016 and other local papers

Letter to editor Coffs Advocate 20 August 2016 , Bellingen Courier Sun 24 August and Nambucca Guardian 25 August - close the offshore detention centres

Many readers will have seen the confronting footage on the recent Four Corners program, which depicted the brutal treatment of aboriginal teenage boys in the Northern Territory’s Don Dale detention centre. Political leaders queued up to tell us how deeply  shocked they were by what they had seen in the video footage. They also claimed that they had no prior knowledge of this disgraceful abuse, notwithstanding the fact there had been several investigations into the running of the centre, all of which had set out in detail many aspects of the abuse which we witnessed on our screens. We now have a Royal Commission which will investigate all the issues.
Hard on the heels of these revelations, we have yet more graphic information about the brutal treatment of asylum seekers on the remote island of Nauru. The evidence of the abuse of detainees on Nauru, in spite of the government’s efforts to shroud the operation in a veil of secrecy, has been well documented for several years. We have had The Forgotten Children report, the Moss review, Senate enquiries and many first-hand accounts from doctors, nurses, teachers and social workers, all of which paint a picture of systemic physical and sexual abuse and mental torture. These are innocent people, fleeing conflict and persecution. They have committed no crime. Yet the response of our government to the publication of some 2,000 incident files last week, which set out in great detail the catalogue of systemic abuse on Nauru, was deeply shocking.  This time, we had Scott Morrison, Malcolm Turnbull and Peter Dutton lining up to downplay and dismiss the reports.  Peter Dutton, the minister responsible, went so far as to suggest that asylum seekers set themselves on fire in an effort to get to Australia! No, Mr Dutton, people set themselves on fire because we have made them so desperate, so broken by ill-treatment and indefinite detention, that they want to die. 
What will it take to spur our government to finally come to its senses and close the offshore detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island? How many more asylum seekers have to die before we take our moral and international obligations seriously?
We should hang our collective heads in shame.


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