More than a thousand asylum seekers who have attempted unsuccessfully to reach Australia have filed a lawsuit against Canberra, saying they have been subjected to “torture” and “crimes against humanity” in off-shore detention centers on two Pacific islands.
Some 1,200 asylum seekers, in detention on the islands of Nauru and Manus said in two class action lawsuits that the conditions in the facilities and the mistreatment by the Australian government amounted to negligence, The New York Times reported Monday.
The lawsuits were filed with the country’s High Court on Friday.
The detainees said that the Australian government had violated international law and abrogated its “duty of care” for asylum seekers.
The detainees also said there were “high levels of self-harm, including self-cutting, lip sewing, swallowing rocks, burning with cigarettes” among the asylum seekers, some of whom were also “refraining from eating and drinking.”
The Australian government declined to comment on the lawsuits, according to the Times, but it has previously claimed that conditions at the detention camps meet international humanitarian standards.
It has also said that the Department of Home Affairs takes the health and safety of detainees very seriously.
Earlier this month, the United Nations (UN) and a group of doctors warned of the dire conditions of the asylum seekers in the off-shore detention centers.
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Canberra accused Australia’s “bureaucrats and politicians” of overruling doctors and putting lives at risk at detention camps.
Reports of catastrophic mental and physical health conditions experienced by the refugees, especially children, have brought Prime Minister Scott Morrison under intense pressure to allow sick children and their families into the country.
Eyewitnesses have reported dire situations at the camps on Nauru, with many families living under constant fear of their loved ones committing suicide.
The Australian government has refused to resettle any of the asylum seekers who have tried to reach its shores by boat. Instead, it has relocated them to the off-shore camps. It also has stopped publishing data on the number of refugees held in the centers. Refugee advocates estimate that 600 people are detained on Manus and a further 500 on Nauru.
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