Refugees seeking asylum in Australia face harrowing conditions at a Papua New Guinea detention camp—including rape and torture—a whistleblower and former official at one of the facilities revealed Tuesday on Australian television.
Yet, despite the revelations, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd declared Wednesday that he will not budge on his announcement last week that he is cutting off the Australian border to all asylum seekers and deporting them to the PNG 'processing' facilities that he plans to drastically expand.
The whistleblower, Rod St. George—a former senior official at one of the PNG facilities—delivered a horrifying account of conditions at these facilities.
"Words can't describe," he said. "I've never seen human beings so destitute, so helpless and so hopeless before."
St. George reports that facility authorities stand idly by as inmates suffer rape and torture at the hands of other asylum seekers. This includes forcing victims to remain housed with the men who have assaulted them.
Prisoners took the horrific steps of sewing their mouths shut to protest their conditions, and inmates attempted to take their own lives and inflict self-harm on a 'near daily' basis, he said.
There is a virtual media blackout on the facilities, and St. George says he quit over his inability to create safe conditions.
Australia's Immigration Minister Tony Burke says he will investigate St. George's claims.
Australia's hardline rule against asylum seekers has spurred criticism and protest across Australia from critics who declare it inhumane to issue an absolute rejection of refugees who have already survived war, hardship, and a difficult journey.
"This policy, where we send refugees packing to Papua New Guinea, our poor struggling neighbor, is going to fall apart, in practical terms, within the next couple of weeks," Co-chair of the Refugee Action Collective, Lucy Honan, recently declared.
Wednesday morning, a boat transporting migrants from Sri Lanka, Iran, and Iraq to Australia sank en route, killing at least three people and leaving scores missing. Critics charge that tragedies like these are bound to increase as asylum seekers are forced to take more drastic measures to reach safety.