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Key aspects of Australia’s policies towards people seeking asylum involve government acting outside Australia’s borders — on the high seas or on foreign soil. These places — where Australia exercises authority and control over individuals who are not Australian citizens — are in many ways beyond the reach of the normal oversight arrangements and often beyond the reach of Australian courts. Serious accountability issues arise from multiple factors; the remoteness of the locations in which these policies are enacted, the role of contracted workers, corporations and foreign officials at arms-length from the Commonwealth Government, and the secrecy surrounding many aspects of Commonwealth policy.
This report explores the extent of that secrecy and the dangers that it poses: both to people seeking asylum and to Australian democracy. It highlights the challenges faced by individuals who want to bring information about risks to the health, safety, dignity and human rights of those within Australia's asylum seeker and immigration system to the awareness of the Australian public. It outlines the current legal, practical and cultural obstacles preventing would-be whistleblowers from legitimately reporting wrongs that they have witnessed and details personal accounts from those who have spoken out about their experiences at the offshore processing centre located on Nauru or Manus Island (together, the ‘Detention Centres’, and each, a ‘Detention Centre’).