UN condemns Australia’s policy on asylum seekers

Canberra, June 16 (IANS) The UN human rights chief has condemned Australia over the “poor benchmark” it is setting in asylum seeker policies, describing its approach as hostile and contemptuous.

In an address to the human rights council in Geneva on Monday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said Australia had set up relocation arrangements for migrants with countries that may be “ill-prepared to offer them any durable solution”, Sky News Australia reported.

Hussein also backed the finding of Australia’s Human Rights Commission that the treatment of children in Australian immigration detention in Papua New Guinea and Nauru violates the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“Such policies should not be considered a model by any country, ” he said.

“Given that most of today’s Australians themselves descend from migrants and given that the country maintains sizeable regular programs for migration and resettlement, I am bewildered by the hostility and contempt for these women, men and children that is so widespread among the country’s politicians.”

An Australian representative at the meeting defended the policies saying unscrupulous and criminal behaviour from people smugglers undermined rights to protection and dignity and must be met with a firm response.

The comments come amid the growing controversy surrounding claims that Australian officials paid people smugglers to turn back an asylum seeker vessel at sea in May.

Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, has refused to rule out whether such an operation had occurred, but said the government was “prepared to do what is necessary” to prevent asylum seeker boats arriving in Australia.

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