11 Mar 2015

Nauru letters withheld to break detainees' spirits: Burnside

1:02 pm on 11 March 2015

An Australian barrister has accused immigration authorities of intentionally withholding 2000 letters of support for asylum seekers at the detention centres on Nauru.

Julian Burnside says the letters were sent by Australians throughout the course of last year, but were returned unopened in bulk to his office in December.

Mr Burnside is calling on the immigration department to explain why it repeatedly assured him that the letters were getting through to detainees when they weren't even being processed.

He says he believes there are two possible reasons for withholding the letters.

"First to prevent Australians from having any sense of empathy with the people who are held in off-shore detention and second and perhaps this is the primary one. To prevent the detainees from having any sense of hope for their future. It is a calculated way of breaking their spirit."

Julian Burnside says he has also started to get letters returned to him from the Manus Island detention center in Papua New Guinea.