13 May 2006

UN agency hopes Australia treats asylum seekers fairly

9:27 am on 13 May 2006

The United Nations refugee agency says it hopes boatpeople arriving in Australia, whose asylum claims are to be processed on a remote Pacific island, will be kept in humane conditions with access to a lawyer.

The Australian government has introduced legislation to parliament saying the proposed changes would provide a strong deterrent to people risking their lives in unsafe boats.

The UNHCR says people arriving illegally by boat will be sent to an immigration site on Nauru.

Jennifer Pagonis, spokeswoman for the agency, says it would like to see the same standards for offshore processing that exist in Australia.

The Geneva-based UNHCR, which is studying the legislation, says it will submit its formal comments by the May 22 deadline to a parliamentary committee.

Nauru, a remote Pacific island which is one of the world's smallest republics, has not ratified the U.N. refugee convention which aims to protect people fleeing conflict or persecution.