11 November 2014
The United Nations Committee Against Torture is the latest international body to express serious concerns about the Australian Government's immigration policies and about conditions at offshore detention centres at Nauru and Manus Island.
At the committee meeting in Geneva this week responses were requested from Australia about asylum seeker policy which has been described as as "cruel" and "inhumane".
The UN committee has also requested answers to allegations of sexual abuse and the death of Reza Berati. It was also noted that in the two years since Australia sent the first asylum seeker to Manus, two have died but not one has been processed and re-settled.
The Committee hearing followed comments from the incoming UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Jordan's Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein in his first speech to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva who criticised Australia's asylum seeker policy, saying it has lead to a chain of human rights violations. "Australia's policy of offshore processing for asylum seekers arriving by sea, and its interception and turning back of vessels, is leading to a chain of human rights violations, including arbitrary detention and possible torture following return to home countries," he said.
The killing and torture of asylum seekers forcibly returned to Afghanistan by Australia was also highlighted in a recent statement from Phil Glendenning the President of the Refugee Council of Australia and Director of the Edmund Rice Centre in Sydney.
In a separate event also in Geneva the International Council of Voluntary Agencies, representing many of the world’s NGOs, told the United Nations High Commission for Refugees Executive Committee meeting in Geneva that it remained “deeply disturbed by the continuing deterioration of protection standards for asylum seekers in Australia”
Meanwhile the recent Senate estimates hearing revealed that it cost the Australian taxpayer one thousand million dollars to detain 2200 asylum seekers in 2013. As an alternative the Refugee Council of Australia argues that releasing asylum seekers from detention after they have passed initial health, identity and security checks, and allowing them to live in the community while their applications are processed, greatly reduces the human and financial costs of immigration detention while also ensuring that potential risks to the community to be managed effectively.
Students and staff members from around thirty Edmund Rice Schools around Australia also took part in the ‘detention for detention’ event last month in a protest against the Australian government’s policy of detaining children in immigration detention.The photo shows staff and students from Christian Brothers College Lewisham
taking part in the 'detention for detention' protest.