UN racism expert blasts cynical refugee politics; hears call for urgent Senate Inquiry into medical neglect in offshore detention

UN racism expert blasts cynical refugee politics; hears call for urgent Senate Inquiry into medical neglect in offshore detention

Overnight, the UN expert on racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia delivered a major report condemning the rise of toxic and hate-filled refugee and migration politics around the world. The report makes specific reference to the cynical politics surrounding the treatment of refugees in Australia.

The UN Special Rapporteur warns that right now around the world:

  • “Political parties and leaders have shown increasing and disturbing tolerance for…messages of hatred and intolerance in their political platforms,”
  • “Countries that have long celebrated immigration as central to their national identity have now taken steps to vilify and undermine immigration…” and
  • That “the rise of populist nationalism and right-wing extremism has delivered a devastating blow to racial equality, especially in the global North. Non-citizens, including refugees and stateless persons, have been the most vulnerable…”

Daniel Webb, Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, is in Geneva to advocate at the UN Human Rights Council. Mr Webb addressed the Council on the need for an urgent Senate Inquiry into the recent spate of deaths and medical neglect cases in the Government’s offshore detention camps.

“The UN expert warns that even in countries with a long history of welcoming new arrivals there are some cynical politicians who will deliberately harm refugees for their own political ends. This is exactly what is happening in Australian politics right now,” Mr Webb told the Council.

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Just this week urgent legal action was needed to force the Turnbull Government to provide proper medical care to a toddler with potentially fatal encephalitis.

“The denial of essential medical care has become the latest political tactic used against the refugees indefinitely imprisoned on Manus and Nauru. The consequences have been fatal.”

“Fariborz Karami was just 26. He had his life ahead of him. But after five years of detention he’d lost hope and become acutely unwell. His doctors. His mother. And even his 12 year old little brother all pleaded with our Government for help. But they were all ignored. And a few weeks ago Fariborz was found dead inside the mouldy tent our government imprisoned him in for the last five years.”

“The Australian Government has also tried to force a 63 year old refugee with terminal cancer to die a slow and agonising death on Nauru instead of bringing him to Australia for palliative care. It even fought in our courts to deny proper treatment to a 10 year old child who had repeatedly tried to kill themselves,” said Mr Webb.

“Before anyone else dies, our Parliament needs to do its job and hold an urgent inquiry into these deaths and the deliberate, deeply cynical medical neglect that is causing them.”

 The full text of the UN expert report is here

Read: Daniel Webb's statement here

Watch: Daniel Webb's statement here

For media inquiries:

 Michelle Bennett, Director of Communications, Human Rights Law Centre: 0419 100 519