Madeline Gleeson’s new book Offshore: Behind the Wire on Manus and Nauru, was launched on 9 May 2016 by Julian Burnside AO QC, an esteemed barrister and refugee advocate.
In his speech, Burnside expressed grave concern over the abuses of human rights experienced by those sent to Manus Island and Nauru by Australia. He noted “epidemic proportions” of self-harm and suicide attempts and “numerous cases of child sex abuse”. Burnside noted a “disappointing” preference for “politics over principle” on the issue of refugees amongst Australian politicians, which has allowed the degradation of human rights to continue in offshore detention centres.
Each year, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees publishes detailed information on refugee applications and determinations by States Parties to the Refugee Convention. However, there are noticeable gaps in the utility and availability of these figures across jurisdictions prior to the mid-1990s, particularly with respect to Australia. This has limited our understanding of how refugee status determination functioned in Australia during the formative years of its modern refugee policy, from 1977 to the early 1980s, and it leaves researchers with little knowledge of the number and provenance of asylum-seekers coming to Australia during this time. The present article contributes to a body of literature that gauges possible political influences on the determination of protection claims.