by Allanah Leahy – EM TV Online
International NGOs, former doctors, teachers and other workers at Australian-run detention centres, have spoken out against the Australian Border Force Act, which comes into effect today.
The act further prevents Australian immigration workers from sharing information on asylum seekers held in detention centres, under an oath, punishing offenders with up to two years’ imprisonment.
Information on asylum seekers is now to be closely screened through an Australian Border Force Commissioner. An open letter by Dr John-Paul Sanggaran, a doctor formerly employed at a detention centre on Christmas Island, has been circulating and gathering support from former staff and doctors, who speak out against their now compromised ethical duties.
“Today, the Border Force Act comes into force. It includes provision for a two-year jail sentence for ‘entrusted persons’ such as ourselves if we continue to speak out about the deplorable state of human rights in immigration detention without the express permission of the minister for immigration and border protection. This strengthens the wall of secrecy which prevents proper public scrutiny.
“We have advocated, and will continue to advocate, for the health of those for whom we have a duty of care, despite the threats of imprisonment, because standing by and watching sub-standard and harmful care, child abuse and gross violations of human rights is not ethically justifiable.”
Papua New Guinean citizens are not susceptible to the act, and human rights lawyer, Ben Lomai, says asylum seekers, and international NGOs such as Amnesty International, are not bound by the law either.
Under the new law, however, previous reporting of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s inaction towards months of harrowing sexual assault cases is now considered a criminal offense.