UN official visit to Australia cancelled due to risk of reprisals on asylum seeker issues

The UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Francois Crepeau, announced overnight he was postponing his imminent official visit to Australia due to the lack of cooperation from the Australian Government including on the risk of reprisals against those who spoke to him.

“The cancellation highlights the secrecy and threats to whistleblowers inherent in Australia’s harmful asylum seeker detention regime. It’s extraordinary that the Australian Government couldn’t assure the UN expert that people he spoke to wouldn’t be exposed to prosecution under the Border Force Act,” said Hugh de Kretser, Executive Director of the Human Rights Law Centre.

The Human Rights Law Centre and other civil society groups were due to meet the Special Rapporteur in Melbourne over the weekend.

“This is extremely damaging for Australia’s reputation – particularly when our human rights record will be reviewed at the UN in November and we’re seeking election to the UN Human Rights Council in 2018. It’s extremely damaging to our ability to advance our national interest on the world stage,” said Mr de Kretser.

“Not only did Australia fail to provide the standard assurances on reprisals, it refused to facilitate access to offshore detention centres that it funds and effectively controls,” said Mr de Kretser.

“This is a huge missed opportunity for the new Prime Minister establish a more constructive relationship with the UN. We urge the Australian Government to urgently provide the necessary assurances to the Special Rapporteur to enable the official visit to take place at a future date.”

A link to the Special Rapporteur’s media release can be found here.

Just this week, the Human Rights Law Centre and Human Rights Watch released a report calling on Australia to improve its leadership on human rights at home and abroad ahead of the UN Human Rights Council bid.


Related reading: Cooperating with a UN investigator should not carry the risk of jail Opinion piece by the HRLC's Daniel Webb.