Last month the Australian government, with the support of the opposition, passed the Border Force Protection Act through both houses of Parliament. It will come into effect on July 1.
If the act defines you as an "entrusted person," you might be facing jail for up to two years if you reveal anything about what happens in Australia's immigration detention centers to anybody else.
An "entrusted person" is anyone working directly or indirectly for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, so that's doctors, nurses, psychologists, teachers, counsellors, security staff, maintenance workers, or anyone who has signed a government contract.
This puts medical professionals and those who work with children on Nauru or Manus Island in bizarre circumstances. Outside of detention centers, they're legally obligated to report child abuse. As of July 1, they can't do the same with abuse witnessed on the inside.
Refugee advocates and human rights lawyers say the legislation is a veiled attempt to silence whistleblowers from revealing human rights violations inside Australia's detention centers. And the mounting evidence of such violations makes this legislation all the more disturbing.
In October last year, Australia's Immigration Department ordered ten workers from Save The Children to leave Nauru's detention center after they alleged sexual abuse against women and children.
The ensuing independent Moss Review looked at both the allegations of sexual abuse, as well as claims from then Immigration Minister, Scott Morrison, that Save the Children's workers coached seekers to make false claims. It found evidence of the rape and sexual assault of minors and women as well as guards trading marijuana for sexual favors. There was no evidence of collusion between asylum seekers and advocates to make false claims. The findings of the review are subject to a senate enquiry which is due to report on July 31.Similarly, February's Australian Human Rights Commission's (AHRC) report on children in detention found there were 233 recorded assaults involving children with 33 incidents of sexual assault between January 2013 and March 2014.
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