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Australia under fire over offshore detention

Wednesday 11 November 2015 | Published in Regional


GENEVA – Australia has come under global fire for its boat turnback and offshore detention policies at a UN Human Rights Council performance review in Geneva.

Country after country raised Canberra’s controversial asylum seeker policies which involve processing centres on Nauru and PNG’s Manus Island.

Many like Germany and Fiji highlighted the detention of children as a main issue.

Germany’s UN representative said: “Germany wishes to offer the following recommendations – to remove children and their families and other individuals at risk in particular survivors of torture and trauma from immigration detention centres, to review the policy of offshore processing on Nauru and Manus Island.”

Fiji’s UN representative said: “Fiji recommends that Australia reviews its immigration laws and policies and ensures compliance with its international obligations especially regarding the rights of children.”

Fiji also pulled Australia up over its climate change policies.

“Australia’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will not be sufficient to meet Australia’s fair responsibility in restricting global warming to no more than two degrees above the pre-industrial levels.”

Ireland’s delegate also expressed concern at child detention and at Australian restrictions that recently deterred a UN rights official from visiting the detention centre on Nauru.

Other countries to raise concerns about the policies included the US, Canada, Japan, Iran, Pakistan and Egypt.

Ireland’s delegate said: “Reports concerning discrimination, rising Islamaphobia, mandatory immigration detention and the policy of ‘pushbacks’ of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers’ boats in international waters require serious and prompt attention.”

When given the opportunity, the Australian delegation defended its government’s policies, saying lives have been saved at sea.

Steve McGlynn of Australia’s Immigration and Border Protection Department told the gathering Australia was committed to managed and equitable migration.

“Australia’s border policies have been successful in severely damaging the insidious people smuggling trade and by extension have saved countless lives at sea.

“The ensuing substantial and sustained reduction in maritime ventures as a result of Australia’s managed approach to migration has resulted in Australia being able to settle more refugees for our humanitarian programmes.”

McGlynn said international obligations were assured at the offshore processing centres in the Pacific.

“The Australian government respects the jurisdiction of both Nauru and Papua New Guinea as sovereign countries in their application of domestic law in processing protection claims.

“Both countries have agreed to treat transferees with dignity and respect and ensure that relevant human rights standards are met.”

Australia said its strong border protection measures have allowed it to offer resettlement to 12,000 refugees from Syria and Iraq. - Dateline Pacific