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Nauru detention of asylum-seekers a "disgrace": Malinauskas

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SA Labor leader Peter Malinauskas says the indefinite detention of asylum-seekers on Nauru is a “disgrace” and has promised to push for change to the ALP’s policy at the party’s national conference in Adelaide later this year.

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Malinauskas told ABC Radio Adelaide this morning that Australia’s off-shore processing of asylum-seekers in Nauru should end.

“I absolutely think it should be closed down – I absolutely think that those people should have more certainty and shouldn’t be incarcerated,” he said.

“I don’t think it is a good thing for our nation to be having people in indefinite detention without any certainty of their prospects to have any sort of life … I don’t know any Australians that like the idea of people being stuck on Nauru with indefinite detention.

“I think it’s been largely a disgrace in the way that some of these people have been left in legal limbo.”

He said he would be arguing for a “well thought-through, considered policy” on refugees and asylum seekers at this year’s ALP national conference, which is to be held in Adelaide in mid-December.

“I am very much looking forward to our ALP national conference … because I hope it presents an opportunity for our party to get this policy right,” he told the ABC.

“I will be advocating that Labor has a well thought-through, considered policy … and that means having a pretty certain timeline about when it is that we expect people to be off Nauru.

“I absolutely think that those people should have more certainty and shouldn’t be incarcerated.”

However, later in the interview, Malinauskas appeared to step back from his comments about closing the Nauru immigration processing centre, instead emphasising his opposition to indefinite incarceration.

“It’s not about closing down Nauru per se; it’s about making sure that these people are provided some sort of certainty and opportunity to have a life, particularly considering they haven’t committed a crime.”

Federal Labor’s official policy document on asylum seekers says that the party supports off-shore processing of asylum seekers, but blames the Liberal Party for making Nauru and Manus Island “places of indefinite detention”

“The Liberal Government’s failure to negotiate other third country resettlement options … has meant genuine refugees have languished in indefinite detention,” the policy document reads.

Malinauskas did not make it clear which specific policy or combination of policies he would advocate in order to give asylum seekers a “certain timeline” about their detention.

“They’re decisions for our federal party,” he added.

Meanwhile, concerns about Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers on Nauru will be raised when the head of the International Red Cross visits Canberra this week.

International Committee for the Red Cross president Peter Maurer will confidentially report on the situation on Manus Island and Nauru, where Australia has sent asylum seekers who arrived by boat.

“We share our findings confidentially with the respective authorities in Australia and we will certainly do that when I arrive in Canberra,” Maurer said ahead of the visit.

“I just want to assure the Australian public that the humane treatment of detainees there, of those who are held in those facilities, the humanitarian concern for their medical, physical as well as psychological well being is at the core of our interest.

“We will certainly pursue and make recommendations on that behalf to the Australian government.”

It comes as doctors ramp up their campaign for children to be taken out of offshore detention centres.

Australian Medical Association pediatric representative Dr Paul Bauert, who has treated patients on Nauru, told reporters in Canberra this morning that indefinite detention of children was a sad situation that could be easily avoided.

“This is the only situation I’ve come across where it is deliberate government policy which is causing the pain and suffering of these children,” said Bauert.

The AMA has been lobbying the government to change policy on Nauru, but just last month Prime Minister Scott Morrison rebuffed a plea from the peak doctors’ association.

“I will not put at risk any element of Australia’s border protection policy,” Morrison said.

About five per cent of all registered doctors in Australia have signed a letter that is being delivered to Morrison this morning.

Almost 6000 doctors are demanding the government remove the 80 children from Nauru because of serious mental and physical health concerns.

Bauert said almost all the children in detention on Nauru are traumatised.

“Many are damaged already, but we don’t want this damage to be permanent,” he said.

“They need to be assessed and treated as a matter of urgency.

“It’s a miracle we haven’t had a death already.”

A separate rally will take place outside of federal parliament tomorrow, calling for the removal of children from Nauru.

The protest is being led by Rural Australians for Refugees.

– with AAP

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