1 Dec 2014

UN finds Australia's asylum seeker policies 'concerning'

From , 4:03 pm on 1 December 2014

The United Nations Committee Against Torture has criticised Australia's asylum seeker policies, including the detention of children and its use of off-shore processing centres.

The Committee has just completed its review under the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment and released its findings.

The Human Rights Law Centre's Director of Legal Advocacy was in Geneva for the review and briefed the Committee along with other NGO representatives and Government officials.

Daniel Webb told Amelia Langford the Committee has made it abundantly clear that it has profound concerns over Australia's treatment of asylum seekers.

DANIEL WEBB: The UN First makes clear that Australia cannot wash it's hands of legal responsibility for people by just shipping them off to Nauru and Papua New Guinea. So Australia remains legally responsible for the people it's detaining off shore and in terms of that detention the UN makes clear it's pretty concerned by the fact that, that detention is mandatory, indefinite. That people who are detained don't have any real idea if or when or where or to where they are going to be resettled and also that the conditions are pretty harsh. And collectively the UN says that that treatment constitutes cruel and inhumane and degrading treatment which is in and of it self a breach of international law.

AMELIA LANGFORD: Could you see the UN's findings actually making a difference could Australia, will Australia take this on board?

DW: I think on some issues, like where there's are real call to action like violence against women and indigenous over imprisonment there's reason to be hopeful at least that the Australian government will pull up its socks and sort of work in good faith to implement these reccomendations. On the matter of asylum seeker policies I think successive Australian governments sadly has shown a willingness to ignore the basic rates of asylum seekers. But I think that's a really, you know, just sort of thumbing your nose at that UN system is a, is an unwise strategy in the long run because it undermines that system of international law and order that we rely on ourselves.

AL: So overall are you happy with what the UN has come back with or did you want it to be stronger?

DW: No, I mean I am certainly not happy, I think it's, it's disappointing to see Australia spoken off in such clearly condemning terms and I think it's pretty clear from the, that the nature of the UN report that Australia is gaining a reputation on the world stage as a lawbreaker. And I think that, that's, you know thats a real shame. So there's no happiness there but I think that, that condemnation from the UN is important and absolutely fair and appropriate. And I am hopeful that it will sort of prompt some thought about what we are doing and how it's harming people and how it's affecting our reputation and how it is breaching the very international laws that we've signed. And that we rely on ourselves from time to time.