Danish lawmakers to visit Australia's controversial migrant camp

Australia-bound migrants from Sri Lanka stranded off Indonesia after their boat breaks down on June 12, 2016.
Australia-bound migrants from Sri Lanka stranded off Indonesia after their boat breaks down on June 12, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

COPENHAGEN (AFP) - Danish lawmakers will travel to the Pacific island of Nauru to visit a controversial Australian immigration centre and study the use of offshore settlements for asylum-seekers, one of the MPs said Tuesday (Aug 23).

Six members of the Danish parliament's Immigration and Integration Affairs Committee will leave on Saturday for Australia and Nauru, Johanne Schmidt-Nielsen of the leftist Red-Green Alliance told AFP, confirming reports in Danish media.

Schmidt-Nielsen said that although she found the Australian system "grotesque", the trip - planned for several months - was a chance for her to "ask some of the questions that the Australian government is preventing journalists from asking."

The release of more than 2,000 leaked reports of incidents on Nauru detailing allegations of widespread abuse and self-harm, including children wanting to kill themselves, have renewed calls for a parliamentary inquiry in Australia.

But the Nauruan government said last week that asylum-seekers had made up most of the claims in hope of being relocated to Australia.

Under Canberra's immigration policy, asylum-seekers who try to reach Australia by boat are turned back or sent to detention centres in other countries, Nauru and Papua New Guinea.

The chairman of the Danish parliamentary committee, Martin Henriksen of the anti-immigration Danish People's Party (DPP), has previously described the Australian policy as being "very sensible".

The ruling Venstre party's hardline integration minister, Inger Stojberg, is not on the committee, but has said that the Australian system "apparently works in an Australian context" and that her government would "continually consider... experiences from other countries."

The Australian government said on Aug 17 that it had agreed to close the Papua New Guinea camp.

The Guardian, which published the Nauru reports, said that only two Australian journalists had been granted access to the Nauru detention centre in the past three years.

The Danish government rules with the help of the anti-immigration DPP in parliament and has passed tough legislation to deter migrants from coming to the country, including allowing police to confiscate some of the asylum seekers' valuables to help pay for their accommodation.