July 3, 2015. 11:40
CLANCY OVERELL | Editor | Contact
Australian Anti-Censorship activists are in uproar today, as it is revealed that the Pacific islands of Nauru and Manus Island are no longer viewable on Google Maps.
The new censorship measures are said to be a result of the Australian Border Force Act, which came into force on Monday. The act makes it an offence for an “entrusted person” to make a record of or disclose “protected information” about Australian immigration detention centres.
The penalty for an individual found guilty of this offence is two years’ imprisonment.
As both Manus Island and Nauru play host to two of Australia’s most controversial detention centres, it seems Google Australia may have chosen to remove themselves from all legal strife by pretending Nauru and Manus Island don’t exist.
Prior to the passing of the bill, lawyers and asylum seeker advocates were voicing concerns that the act will have a “chilling effect” on whistleblowers working in detention centres, but very few identified the risk it might have on Australia’s understanding of geography.
Google Australasia CEO, Bernice Birley spoke to the Advocate today about these new censorship measures.
“Essentially, this government is very protective of information surrounding immigration detention, and like whistleblowers on the ground, Google now has the responsibility of making sure no one can get a good idea of what goes on inside these ‘island prisons’
The stateless people who are subject to these “processing centres” find themselves there due to their decision to illegally travel thousands of kilometres via leaky boats in the hope that they might find a community that is willing to accept them, or at least not rape and execute them over extreme misunderstandings of sacred texts – However, it would seem their lives in detention, up until yesterday, were similarly depressing.
According to the recounts of workers prior to yesterdays new laws, desperate and dispirited asylum seekers at the Australian-run detention centre on Nauru formed “suicide pacts”, identified themselves as numbers instead of by name, and were treated like animals by some guards.
“If I had known I was going to end up killing myself due to the torturous conditions of an Australian detention centre, I would have just done it prior to giving my family’s entire life savings to the people smugglers that promised to get me here” says 11-year old Asha.
However, since the new laws were put in place, authorities insist living conditions on the island prisons are on the up and up.