Opinion: Christmas Island Kiwi torture

Opinion: Christmas Island Kiwi torture

The Australian government is using Christmas Island as a form of mental torture for the New Zealand detainees.

I just spent four days on the island – and that is the only conclusion you can reach.

Why are the Kiwis out there in the notorious detention centre, as far away from the mainland as Australia can get them? To grind them down and to get them to give up their fight to stay in Australia, where they have made their lives.

The 50 Kiwis on the island spend 20 hours a day locked in their compound – they are only allowed out for four hours. I watched them from a jungle lookout above the detention centre and they've got little to do. They walk in a large circle for hours on end, ride bikes, or just sit and talk in the hot tropical sun.

If you believe Australia, the Kiwis are there because they have played up, and in some cases maybe that's true. But the real reason is to break them mentally.

The men on the island have appealed their deportation, which could take up to two years to be resolved.

So what is Australia's solution? Send them to a small rock in the Indian Ocean, away from their families and legal support, and continually taunt them with: 'This could all be over if you just sign the forms and head back.'

It is a dirty tactic, the human rights equivalent of that infamous under-arm Australian bowl.

It is also awfully expensive to send the Kiwis there. The Australian government has to charter jets to send them up into the Indian Ocean. Australia surely wouldn't go to this expense if it was just to separate a few troublemakers.

I spoke to the guys inside, they say they are going "compound crazy". One Kiwi admitted that he would rather be in prison.

It is important to remember that the detention centre was always intended to process asylum seekers coming by boat. It is just below Indonesia, and is the closest Australian soil for the so-called "boat people" to reach.

But times have changed, the boats have stopped and now the detention centre is being used as a remote jail for Kiwis.

The New Zealand criminals who have finished their sentences are being sentenced again on Christmas Island – they are getting double the punishment.

In my opinion, this is 'double jeopardy' and therefore a breach of human rights – highly ironic given Australia's just announced bid for a seat on the UN Human Rights Commission.

The country's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says her country is "world leading" on human rights. Well, the Kiwis have a two-year wait for what? Almost certain deportation; but that's clearly worth the risk given most of them face losing their Australian lives forever.

The deportation policy won't change anytime soon because it is popular politics in Australia: 'Send the crims back.'

But what does need to change is the process. It is a disgusting to way to treat people.

I bet Bishop won't be telling the world about it during her international cocktail circuit campaign to get on the UN Human Rights Council – it doesn't sound very "world leading". It is actually a form of mental torture and something Australia should be ashamed of.

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