16 Jun 2015

Australia slammed by UN on boat push-backs

1:07 pm on 16 June 2015

The United Nations has criticised Australia on its treatment of refugees and migrants from vulnerable countries.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, took aim at wealthy countries in the Asia-Pacific, saying Australia has set a poor benchmark over the handling of the South East Asian boatpeople crisis.

Mr Al-Hussein says migrants are not a burden, but work, pay tax and contribute to a country's economic growth.

Australia's Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, defended his country's policy, saying the illegal smuggler trade has been crippled due to Australia's tough stance and there have been far fewer deaths at sea as a result.

Peter Dutton

Peter Dutton Photo: AAP

But Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein says Australia has pushed back boats in international waters, which is not model behaviour.

Since 2012, Australia transfers asylumseekers who arrive by boat to its detention centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea.

Last September, Australia made a deal with Cambodia to resettle genuine refugees there, prompting criticism for shirking its obligations to the UN refugee convention.

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