Detaining the Displaced (Refugees) by Refuge
Over the last few years, the public has become increasingly aware of the fact that many asylum seekers are imprisoned by the very states they flee to in search of protection. In February 2002, Australian citizens, including members of church and community groups, organized demonstrations to protest the Australian government's policy of mandatory detention. (1) Earlier this year about 240 mostly Afghan asylum seekers at Australia's infamous Woomera detention centre staged a two-week hunger-strike to protest their treatment and a group of Iraqi asylum seekers reportedly dug their own graves to protest their imprisonment in Woomera. (2) In the U.S., religious leaders publicly criticized the U.S.'s mandatory detention of arriving asylum seekers, and the press and human rights groups have criticized the U.S.'s detention of children--citing, most recently, the detention of a disabled teenage asylum seeker from Guinea in adult criminal jails for over a year. (3) In the wake of the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., some countries have proposed or passed harsh new laws that call for the increased detention of non-citizens. The anti-immigrant rhetoric in many countries has escalated, at times targeting individuals of Arab or Muslim background. Asylum seekers, often the victims of human rights abuses themselves, are more vulnerable than ever in the current climate.
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