The treatment of asylum seekers by the Australian government is not just cruel but unlawful. We are a signatory to The 1951 Refugee Convention. Under international law, people have the right to seek asylum and be protected.

According to The UN Refugee Agency, the Refugee Convention was ‘ratified​ by 145 State parties, it defines the term ‘refugee’ and outlines the rights of the displaced, as well as the legal obligations of States to protect them.

The core principle is non-refoulement, which asserts that a refugee should not be returned to a country where they face serious threats to their life or freedom. This is now considered a rule of customary international law.’ It seems pretty straightforward – don’t send people back to a place where they might get killed. Or in the case of Australia, don’t send them to Nauru or Manus where further traumatisation is inevitable.

Despite having signed this convention, we have systematically eroded these rights. Through various interventions, including and notably off-shore detention, we have caused immeasurable harm.

The most recent effects of this maltreatment can be seen in the suicide of a Nauru detainee. Based on a medical report by Australia’s International Health and Medical Services, the man suffered from severe depression after being held in detention in Iran when he was 10 years old.

Recently, the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Peter Dutton, announced the stripping away of asylum seeker’s access to support. This is just another form of punishment for those that have made it to Australia; this will leave people destitute. A source familiar with the new policy has rightly asked, “How does homelessness help with integration?”

Jana Favero, from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, said, “People studying English will be forced to stop. Parents training to get a job to support their family will be forced to stop.”

We need to protect the vulnerable – people who have already suffered immensely in their country of birth do not need their suffering further perpetuated. Unlawful detention must end. Let’s build a stronger, more inclusive society.