Australia’s treatment of refugees damages its relationship with the UN

Australia is using ever more radical measures to prevent people from seeking its protection and demonstrating increasing contempt towards the United Nations human rights system, the Human Rights Law Centre told the UN Human Rights Council this week.

“Especially when it comes to refugee issues, Australia has shown increasing hostility and disregard for the scrutiny of UN experts who highlight where Australia’s treatment of refugees violates human rights,” said the HRLC’s Director of Advocacy and Research, Emily Howie, who delivered the statement in Geneva.

The HRLC highlighted the increasingly dangerous and unlawful measures that Australia uses to intercept and return people seeking protection, including reports that Australia paid USD$30,000 to people smugglers to return asylum seekers on board their vessel to Indonesia.

“We are in the midst of a global refugee crisis. Wealthy, developed and fundamentally decent nations like Australia need to step up to the plate and share responsibility for refugee protection, not breach international law in order to shift responsibility elsewhere,” said Ms Howie.

Australia is a candidate for membership of the Human Rights Council, the UN’s peak human rights body, for the term 2018-2020. If Australia is elected as a member of the Council it will be expected to uphold the highest standards of human rights and to fully cooperate with UN human rights bodies.

“Statements such as those made by the Prime Minister that Australia is “sick of being lectured” by the UN fall well below the standards expected of Council members”, said Ms Howie. “They also show flagrant disregard for the international human rights standards to which Australia agreed to be bound when it ratified the human rights treaties.”

The statements are available here:



In Geneva – Emily Howie, Director of Advocacy and Research, +61 421 370 997 or

In Australia – Hugh de Kretser, Executive Director, +61 403 965 340 or