Australia’s asylum seeker polices & treatment of gay refugees condemned at UN

Australia’s unlawful and increasingly punitive treatment of asylum seekers has once again been condemned on the world stage.

Overnight a statement prepared by the Human Rights Law Centre was delivered to the UN’s Human Rights Council in Geneva, the world’s peak human rights body.

The statement called on the Human Rights Council and member States to condemn Australia for ignoring its international human rights obligations and to remind it that countries need to share, not shift, responsibility for refugee protection.

“Australia is violating the rights of asylum seekers who arrive in an attempt to scare off others thinking of coming. It’s using cruelty to ‘stop the boats’ instead of working to address why people get on them in the first place,” said HRLC Director of Legal Advocacy, Daniel Webb.

The statement also updated the Council on the situation inside the Manus Island detention centre, where in February this year an Iranian asylum seeker, Mr Reza Berati, was killed and around 60 others seriously injured. To date, not a single refugee has had their claims determined and been resettled.

“It is an appalling reality that in the 19 months since the first transfers to Manus took place, more asylum seekers have been killed and injured than processed and resettled,” said Mr Webb.

The statement also raised the particular danger posed to LGBTI asylum seekers by Australia’s offshore processing policies.

HRLC Director of Advocacy and Strategic Litigation, Anna Brown, said that Australia sending LGBTI asylum seekers to PNG was a clear case of refoulment.

“Australia is sending gay asylum seekers to a country that criminalises homosexuality, exposing them to serious risks of harm and breaching international law. Australia’s cruel policies are made crueller by their inflexible application,” said Ms Brown.

Australia is currently campaigning to become a member of the Human Rights Council in 2018 and Ms Brown said Australia must lift its game if it wants to be taken seriously.

“It’s extremely difficult for Australia to be an effective advocate on the world stage if its own human rights track record is increasingly tarnished by a willingness to violate human rights for domestic political gain,” said Ms Brown.

The statement delivered to the UN Human Rights Council is available here.

For further information or comments contact:
Daniel Webb, (in Australia) Director of Legal Advocacy, on 0437 278 961 or
Anna Brown (in Europe), Director of Advocacy and Strategic Litigation, on +61 422 235 522 or