Asylum Seekers in Australia – Joint Statement at UN

f99c7d2e-170e-48af-8af5-bf53c9dfd5c4 The following joint statement by Franciscans International & Edmund Rice International was delivered at the 27th Session of the UN Human Rights Council:

“Franciscans International and Edmund Rice International welcome the report of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, especially regarding the detention of asylum seekers and irregular migrants. We commend the view of the Working Group that “the detention of asylum seekers and irregular migrants should be a last resort and permissible only for the shortest period of time. (…) The inability of the authorities to carry out the expulsion of an individual can never justify indefinite detention.” We draw the attention of the Working Group to three particular cases concerning the detention of those seeking asylum in Australia.

The first is the case of the offshore detention of asylum-seekers at Manus Island, Papua New Guinea which as September 2, 2014 had 1,227 asylum-seekers detained there. The UN High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) and a number of Australian and international NGOs, have been alarmed by allegations of violations of human rights. These include the violent unrest at the centre which erupted on 17 and 18 February 2014, resulting in the death of an asylum-seeker, Mr Reze Berati, and injuries to 77 others. A case of brain death of Mr. Hamid Kehazaei, a 24-year-old Iranian asylum seeker detained on Manus Island, was reported on 4th September 2014 due to late response to his medical need.

The second concerns another Australian offshore detention centre for asylum seekers in Nauru, where the detention of children is a particular concern. The number of children detained in this centre has increased dramatically in recent months. On the 6th October 2013 there were 95 children, out of a detainee population of 801, but as of the 31st March 2014 that number has increased to 179 children. In particular the Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison (who is the legal guardian of these unaccompanied minors) transferred 10 Hazara boys on the 16th of February this year from Nauru to Australia and since that time around 40 more children have been transferred. FI and ERI regard this issue as particularly urgent due to the damage to mental and physical health detention has been proven to have on children recently transferred, and those yet to be transferred. In this regard, we also express our deep concern that the Government of Nauru withdrew an invitation for the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to visit Nauru to see the situation of the arbitrary detention, due “unforeseen circumstances” and a new date has not been proposed.

The third case relates to a boatload of 153 Sri Lankan asylum seekers which included 32 women and 37 children who were intercepted near Cocos Island, Australia in July 2014, as part of the Australian military-led border regime Operation Sovereign Borders. The High Court of Australia subsequently ordered an interim injunction against any transfer of the 153 asylum seekers to Sri Lanka. The current situation of those people is unknown as the Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has refused to enlighten the media on that matter.

We recommend the Working Group to urge the Government of Australia:

  1. To ensure the reception of asylum seekers and processing of their claims according to International human rights and humanitarian law including the International Refugee Law and International Human Rights Law to which Australia is a state party;
  2. To impose a moratorium on returning any asylum-seekers to Sri Lanka against their will, until an impartial international assessment of the situation of returned Tamil asylum-seekers in Sri Lanka is conducted and their safety can be assured.
  1. To immediately close the detention centers for the processing of asylum seekers to Australia in the Manus Island and Nauru detention centers; that Australia return to a policy of processing asylum-seekers on the Australian mainland, and ban the practice of processing such claims while claimants are still at sea, in compliance with international human rights standards;
  2. To take appropriate measures to ensure the rights to life, physical and mental integrity, and freedom from arbitrary deprivation of liberty of persons currently detained at Nauru, especially children;



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