Barbary and bloodshed: the horror reserved for Australia's asylum seekers

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Last year, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and Amnesty International denounced the appalling conditions at an Australian immigration centre in Papua New Guinea, one of two offshore Pacific camps used by Australia to detain and process migrants' demands for asylum. But the alarm went unheeded, and in February this year a revolt by the detainees led to a bloody confrontation that left one 23 year-old Iranian asylum seeker dead, and 77 other people injured, some by gunshot and machete blows. Mediapart has gained access to a series of photos of the injured detainees and witness accounts of the tragic events on February 16th and 17th which received little coverage outside of Australia. Carine Fouteau reports on the inhumane and humiliating treatment Australia reserves for asylum seekers, one of whom, an Iraqi national aged 43, told Amnesty International that, given their fate, “if we had died in the ocean, that would have been better.”

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Beginning in 2001, the Australian government established a so-called ‘Pacific Solution’ policy that allowed for the transportation of asylum seekers to detention centres in neighbouring foreign Pacific Ocean islands. Most of those detained were attempting to arrive in Australia by ramshackle, overcrowded boats heading south from Indonesia.