Australia’s refugee policies comes under more UN fire for “putting lives at risk”

Australia’s refugee policies comes under more UN fire for “putting lives at risk”

The UN’s top expert on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions has included criticism of the Australian Government in a scathing global report condemning deterrence-based responses to people seeking asylum.

In the comprehensive global report, presented to the UN General Assembly in New York last week, the Special Rapporteur, Agnes Callamard, said Australia’s regime of secretive boat-turnbacks “raise serious concerns” and “may intentionally put lives at risk, given that security officials know, but disregard, the reality that returnees may be victims of brutal crimes when returned under these circumstances.”

This latest criticism comes just a fortnight after Australia was handed a seat on the UN Human Rights Council only to then be hit with a barrage of UN criticism over its “shocking” and “disturbing” mistreatment of refugees on Manus and Nauru and “chronic non-compliance” with international human rights laws and UN human rights rulings.

Daniel Webb, a Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, said there was a rising tide of global condemnation being directed towards Australia’s mistreatment of refugees and that the Australian Government’s refugee policies would hamper its time on the Council.

“Our Government is just two weeks into a three-year term on the Human Rights Council and already it’s clear that its cruelty to refugees will haunt it wherever it goes. For as long our Government continues to deliberately mistreat innocent people – people just seeking a chance at life in freedom and safety – Australia will lack credibility or moral authority on human rights,” said Mr Webb.

The Australian Government is set to close the Manus Detention Centre on Tuesday, cutting off all power, water and food to the 600 men detained in the centre for the four and a half years.

"Manus is on a knife’s edge. The Australian Government is bulldozing its camp, but the men trapped inside it for the last four years have nowhere safe to go. They're terrified of violence if they stay. They're terrified of violence if they leave. These men deserve a future, but instead our Government is trying to bludgeon them into returning to persecution or moving from one dead end camp to another," said Mr Webb.

Last week even the PNG police chief warned that safety could not be guaranteed. Mr Webb said the only sensible and humane option was for the Australian Government to evacuate the men it dumped on Manus four years ago.

“Our Government can’t just sit back and wait for further bloodshed, it needs to act now. Every single man on Manus must be immediately evacuated to safety in Australia," said Mr Webb.

For further information, contact Tom Clarke on 0422 545 763

Photo source: UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras