United States President Donald Trump has found the one immigration policy more controversial than his own, and endorsed it.
Amid heightened media scrutiny over the tragic fate of a father and daughter who died on the US-Mexico border, Trump tweeted pictures of four fliers distributed by the Australian government warning migrants away from attempting to come to the country, adding that “much can be learned!”
That policy, with slogans such as “NO WAY, you will not make Australia home,” was the brainchild of current Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who Trump is meeting with Thursday ahead of this week’s G20 summit in Osaka, Japan.
As immigration and border protection minister, Morrison in 2013 oversaw the “Sovereign Borders” policy aimed at preventing people smuggling and asylum seekers deaths at sea. While that policy was successful in lowering the number of people arriving in Australia, it achieved this in part by massively expanding the number of people held in offshore detention camps on the Pacific nations of Nauru and Papua New Guinea.
While that policy has become more or less bipartisan consensus in Australia, Morrison has become synonymous with tough immigration policies, often appearing on TV endorsing the campaign slogan “Stop the boats.”
Following Morrison’s surprise win in May’s general election, at least nine people attempted to take their own lives in a camp on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island, where around 500 peopleare still held in detention.
The opposition Labor Party had said it would resettle at least 150 refugees in New Zealand, which has repeatedly offered to take them but been turned down by the Australian government, which claims doing so would encourage more migrants to attempt the risky sea crossing in the Pacific.
The incidents on Manus were only the beginning of a wave of attempted suicides and cases of self-harm on the island. This month at least eight other men followed suit, including a Sudanese man who set himself on fire and an Iranian who attempted to hang himself but was cut down by guards, according to witnesses.
In 2016, a 23-year-old Iranian man died after setting himself on fire in a detention camp on Nauru. Following his death, another refugee, 21-year-old Somali woman Hodan Yasin, self immolated and was evacuated to Australia for emergency medical treatment which saved her life.
Rights groups have repeatedly condemned the conditions in the camp system, with Amnesty International saying Manus detention centers are unsafe and “hellish.” Earlier this month, United Nations representatives said they were “deeply concerned” by the conditions in the camps.
“The situation of their indefinite and prolonged confinement, exacerbated by the lack of appropriate medical care amounts to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment according to international standards,” the UN rights experts said in the statement.