One of three asylum seekers claiming Australian border protection officers deliberately burned their hands, during a controversial Operation Sovereign Borders turn back, has spoken out about the ordeal.
In January, allegations emerged that officers deliberately burned the hands of asylum seekers on hot engine parts after the Australians boarded the vessel to send it back to Indonesia.
The Abbott government continues to dismiss these as unsubstantiated claims of inappropriate conduct and says it accepts assurances from Customs and Defence about the conduct of their personnel.
There are clear rules and guidelines to govern behaviour and use of force in relation to the conduct of operations by Border Protection Command, it says.
However, the asylum seekers claimed the Australians prevented them from going to the toilet more than once a day.
Sudanese asylum seeker Mustafa Ibrahim alleged on ABC Television’s 7.30 that the officers burnt his hand intentionally after stopping him from using the toilet.
“Those people hold us and put our hands on the engine and burnt us,” he said.
“One came out this side and the other one came out the other side and they put my hand on the exhaust.”
He claims he could not close his hand for days.
Another asylum seeker, Yousif Fasher, says he saw Australian personnel deliberately burn the hands of three asylum seekers including Mr Ibrahim.
“They call `Yousif, translate for anyone here: `If anyone try to go to the toilet again we will punish them like this.”
The asylum seekers are now in immigration detention in Indonesia and say no Australian officials have investigated their claims but they could identify individuals involved.
Opposition immigration spokesman Richard Marles said he doesn’t believe the asylum seekers’ claims.
“It doesn’t add up to me,” he told ABC TV.
But he said because of government secrecy Navy and Customs officials were unable to defend themselves.
“It’s absolutely time now that we do get to be told exactly what’s going on out there,” Mr Marles said.