//
you're reading...
Australian Current Affairs

UN warns Australia that asylum seeker policy may breach international law


Peter O'Neill and Kevin Rudd

Peter O’Neill and Kevin Rudd

The United Nations refugee agency has warned Australia that its decision to send asylum seekers to Papua New Guinea could breach international law and its human rights obligations.

Around 700 asylum seekers have arrived at Christmas Island since the deal was announced last week, and will be eligible to be resettled in PNG, not in Australia, if they are deemed to be refugees.

But, in its first comments about the so-called PNG solution, the UNHCR describes the deal as a significant shift which could be tantamount to Australia deflecting its responsibilities under the refugee convention.

In a strongly worded statement issued today, the UNHCR said it was troubled by the absence of adequate protections for asylum seekers who will be resettled in PNG.

The statement pointed to “significant shortcomings” in PNG’s ability to legally and humanely process asylum seekers.

“These include a lack of national capacity and expertise in processing, and poor physical conditions within open-ended, mandatory and arbitrary detention settings,” it said.

“This can be harmful to the physical and psycho-social wellbeing of transferees, particularly families and children.”

The UN agency said the assessment was based on recent visits to PNG by UN representatives.

“We’re concerned that the net effect of the measures is that for all intents and purposes Australia ceases to be an asylum country under the convention for anybody coming to the country other than by air,” UNHCR regional representative Richard Towle told The World Today.

“This is a very significant shift and change from the practices used by states around the world.

“We have yet to see how the arrangements will play out, because nobody under the new arrangements has been transferred across to Papua New Guinea.

“But what we can say, and what we know already, is that the transfer to the current physical and legal environment in Papua New Guinea will raise very significant and indeed formidable challenges.”

Doubts raised over whether non-Melanesian refugees can ever be settled in PNG

The UNHCR is also warning that efforts to try and integrate non-Melanesian refugees into the socio-economic and cultural life of PNG will be problematic.

“We’ve been operating and working very closely with the PNG government for more than 30 years dealing with west Papuan refugees, Melanesians who have been well received by their Melanesian brothers across the border,” Mr Towle said.

“We’ve also been trying to do our best with a small number of non-Melanesian asylum seekers and refugees coming into the country.

“To the best of our knowledge there is very, very little opportunity for non-Melanesians to find durable solutions in Papua New Guinea.

“We found it very, very difficult to find any kind of sustainable settlement options for people. And that’s why, in past years, Australia has been very helpful in actually receiving resettlement refugees from PNG, precisely because of the impossibility of integration there.

“We’re concerned now that this is reversing the logic with the assumption that somehow people who are determined to be refugees … can find a sustainable integration solution [in PNG]. There are many socio-economic and cultural issues in PNG that are particular to that country, and people from the outside, particularly non-Melanesians, would find it enormously difficult to find a sustainable integration.”

Australia could be called on to resettle refugees if PNG option falls apart

Mr Towle also warned that Australia could ultimately find itself obliged to accept refugees who had initially been settled in PNG under the deal.

“The act of transfer physically does not divest the transferring state, in this case Australia, of the responsibility for ongoing protection,” he said.

“If protection cannot be found in Papua New Guinea, and if protection can’t be found through any other resettlement options to any other country, then we would think it logical that the residual responsibility rests with Australia.

“It’s pretty clear that if the responsibilities under the convention maintain after the transfer, that those obligations will remain. If protection options can’t be found somewhere else, then the protection responsibilities rest with the transferring state.”

While recognising the significant problem of boat arrivals in Australia and associated exploitation of asylum seekers, including “families, unaccompanied children and other vulnerable individuals”, the UNHCR said Australia and PNG had a shared responsibility to adhere to the principles of the 1951 Refugee Convention, to which both are signatories.

“This is important for the countries involved, for the global asylum system, and for all those in need of international protection,” the statement said.

People smugglers telling ‘every lie you can think of’ over PNG

The number of people confirmed dead in the latest boat tragedy off Indonesia rose to 13 overnight as Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare accused people smugglers of lying to asylum seekers about Australia’s ‘PNG solution’.

Mr Clare said he had heard reports that people smugglers were telling would-be asylum seekers they should get on a boat now, before the first plane left for Manus Island.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has announced that all asylum seekers arriving to Australia by boat will be sent to PNG for processing, and that people found to be refugees would be resettled there.

More than 700 asylum seekers have arrived in Australian waters since Mr Rudd announced the PNG policy, and yesterday the PM warned that thousands of people a year could drown at sea if action was not taken to deter them from embarking on the perilous journey to Australia.

Today Australian authorities confirmed the arrivals of two more boats, carrying 125 people, off Christmas Island on Wednesday.

Speaking in Perth, Mr Rudd reiterated his promise to improve standards for asylum seekers on Manus Island.

He says Australia took note of concerns expressed by the UNHCR in an earlier report.

“We had received a report, noted on it and together with PNG we would seek to take all the appropriate steps to lift the standards that are currently applying in Manus,” Mr Rudd said.

“I think that’s the right thing to do, this takes a bit of time and we’re going to take our time to do it and make sure we do it thoroughly.”

Indonesian defence minister talks up ties during talks in Perth

Meanwhile Indonesia’s defence minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro has dismissed concerns that Indonesia was not adequately briefed by Australia on the PNG asylum seeker deal.

Speaking at a joint media conference with his Australian counterpart Stephen Smith in Perth, Mr Purnomo said the deal was part of bilateral cooperation between Australia and PNG, and also a “domestic issue”.

Cooperation between Canberra and Jakarta on the issue of asylum seekers remained strong, he said.

“We know that Australia and PNG and also Nauru have the bilateral cooperation to see how you can solve the asylum seekers, but really that is [a part of] bilateral cooperation between you and PNG, and you and Nauru,” he said.

He said Indonesian officials worked closely with Australian officials on the issue of asylum seekers at several levels.

“We have our officials in Canberra in the RCC [Rescue Control Coordination Centre], under the umbrella of AMSA, and also your people in our office. Both of them have very good liaison,” he said.

“Really, we don’t want to involve [ourselves] in the domestic policy issue in your country.”

His comments came after an Indonesian opposition figure said Indonesian MPs had complained that Mr Rudd did not consult with Jakarta before announcing the deal to resettle asylum seekers in Papua New Guinea.

Tantowi Yahya, a member of Indonesia’s Foreign Affairs Commission, said most of the group’s 35 members had complained about Indonesia not being consulted on Australia’s policy shift.

“Several government officials and politicians like myself protested and then your government responded by calling the president,” he said.

Source: ABC News – United Nations refugee agency warns Australia its asylum policy may breach international law
 

About Craig Hill

Teacher and Writer. Writing has been cited in New York Times, BBC, Fox News, Aljazeera, Philippines Star, South China Morning Post, National Interest, news.com.au, Wikipedia and others.

Discussion

2 thoughts on “UN warns Australia that asylum seeker policy may breach international law

  1. Reblogged this on The ObamaCrat.Com™.

    Posted by Jueseppi B. | July 29, 2013, 01:21

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Pingback: Australia ignores teenaged refugees in Indonesia until adulthood | Craig Hill - August 11, 2013

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

If you liked what you just read, click "Subscribe" to become a follower of the Craig Hill site. You will receive an email each time a new post is published.

Join 17,664 other followers

An archive of all my old posts

Follow me on Twitter

Most Recent Posts Post on My Blog About China: China News

When Beijing was burning, Xi was playing personal games 

When Beijing was burning, Xi was playing personal games 

A great fire destroyed Rome for six days in the summer of AD 64. Famous Roman historian of that time, Tacitus, recorded that 70 percent of the city was destroyed and half of the city’s residents were displaced. Roman ruler Nero was accused of being indifferent, ineffective, and careless. The end result of this neglect […]

China would re-educate Taiwan in event of reunification

China would re-educate Taiwan in event of reunification

Once China achieves its professed goal of establishing control over Taiwan, a process of “re-education” of the island’s population would follow, according to China’s Ambassador to France Lu Shaye. The ambassador was speaking on French television channel BFM TV on Wednesday night, when he said a majority of the Taiwanese population actually wanted to be […]

Sri Lanka’s economic crisis is a political sabotage

Sri Lanka’s economic crisis is a political sabotage

Sri Lanka’s present state confirms the famous statement: “Insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results.” Sri Lankans have been repeating the mistakes of choosing the politicians Rajapaksas again and again. It is confirmed that there were unaccounted payments that the Chinese were liberal with during project negotiations with the island nation. They were paid […]

<strong>China’s military drills around Taiwan drive foreign firms to draw up exit plans for staff and assets</strong>

<strong>China’s military drills around Taiwan drive foreign firms to draw up exit plans for staff and assets</strong>

China’s military drills around Taiwan have led some foreign companies on the island to draw up contingency plans in case there is an attack. Photo: Reuters (image omitted) Multinational businesses in Taiwan are laying plans to evacuate assets and personnel in case mainland China attacks the island. While no one is fixing to leave, analysts […]

Chinese aircraft, ships and drones circle Taiwan on final day of military drills

Chinese aircraft, ships and drones circle Taiwan on final day of military drills

The Chinese military continued joint air-naval exercises on Sunday, simulating attacks on Taiwan, the Taiwanese defense ministry said as China announced new drills north of the island in the Yellow Sea. It was the last day of drills held as an angry response to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island. At the […]

What may be China’s response to Pelosi’s Taiwan visit

What may be China’s response to Pelosi’s Taiwan visit

Nikkei Asia describes US military deployment for possible military response to China’s response to Pelosi’s Taiwan visit in its report “U.S. deploys ships and planes near Taiwan as Pelosi eyes visit” yesterday. However, China is not fully prepared for taking Taiwan by force now, especially a war with the US due to its military takeover […]

A Quad of a new kind: Tech Quad   

A Quad of a new kind: Tech Quad   

Machines, big and small, all rely on one component, semiconductor. Be it computers, telecommunications, household appliances, banking, security, healthcare, transportation, manufacturing, and last but not least, war-making machinery, all depend upon semiconductors. So, it won’t be unreasonable to say that the country that controls the semiconductors controls the future. Do you know, just like Rare […]

Taiwan’s aircraft and warships stage five-day live-fire exercise

Taiwan’s aircraft and warships stage five-day live-fire exercise

The Taiwanese military kicked off a five-day annual live-fire exercise on Monday aimed at bolstering the island’s defense capabilities and combat readiness at a time when China and Taiwan’s allies have been facing off in the airspace and seas around the island. The Han Kuang drills will be taking place at a number of locations […]

China plundered, India blundered and Sri Lanka surrendered  

China plundered, India blundered and Sri Lanka surrendered  

On Wednesday, Ranil Wickremesinghe, present acting President, was voted in as the next President of Sri Lanka by the Sri Lankan parliamentarians. Some people are prematurely hailing new President Ranil Wickremasinghe as P V Narasimha Rao of Sri Lanka, who steered India through 1991’s economic crisis towards economic stability. Would Ranil Wickremesinghe — a record six-time […]

India gains on China in crisis-hit Sri Lanka

India gains on China in crisis-hit Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s pre-emptive default on its foreign debt obligations in mid-April 2022 and recently resigned president Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s flight from Sri Lanka on 12 July provides India with an opportunity to match China in the foreign aid game. The Indian government held an all-party meeting on the Sri Lankan crisis on July 19 and new President Ranil […]

%d bloggers like this: