Friday, May 22, 2015

Australia's "don't ask, don't tell" policy on torture

The prohibition against torture is one of the cast-iron features of international law. You're not allowed to torture people, and you're not allowed to return or extradite people to a country where there are substantial grounds to believe they will be tortured. The latter is one of the few guaranteed paths to refugee status: if you turn up somewhere, and you've been tortured, they can't send you back. But racist Australia doesn't want refugees, even ones who are victims of torture. So they have a simple solution: stop asking about it:

Asylum seekers will no longer be immediately asked by Australian officials if they have been tortured or suffer from trauma under new screening guidelines.

Documents lodged with the Senate have revealed the question was scrapped from the initial public health screening questionnaire in March.

It means asylum seekers will no longer be asked the question during their first contact with immigration officials and will instead have to wait until they proceed to another stage of screening.

Advocates fear it could also see asylum seekers potentially turned back to other countries before they have been given the option to formally declare themselves as victims of torture.

And according to a former member of the Immigration Health Advisory Group, the question was dropped explicitly because "there is a moral and ethical responsibility to respond to it".

This is the sort of country Australia is now: a country which refuses to ask about torture so that it doesn't have to respond to it. They have not a single shred of human decency left in them, and the sooner the entire country burns down in a bushfire, the better.