The UN Have Condemned Australia’s Treatment Of Asylum Seekers, Said It May Contravene The Anti-Torture Convention

Things don't look great for Scotty.

asylum seeker, refugees

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A report released today from the United Nations Committee Against Torture has confirmed what we’ve all believed to be the case for so long now: shit is fucked. Completing a four-year review of human rights, a panel of 10 independent experts have outright condemned Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers. Embarrassingly, this isn’t even the first time this has happened.

“The combination of … harsh conditions, the protracted periods of closed detention and the uncertainty about the future reportedly creates serious physical and mental pain and suffering,” the report reads.

“The Committee is concerned at [Australia’s] policy of transferring asylum seekers … despite reports on the harsh conditions prevailing in these centres, including mandatory detention, including for children; overcrowding, inadequate health care; and even allegations of sexual abuse and ill-treatment.”

They also expressed significant concern about the policy to straight-up turn back boats saying that it could in fact be breaking international law — specifically Article 3 of the Convention Against Torture which Australia has signed. “[No country] shall expel, return … or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture,” the Article reads.

It’s pretty damning stuff. And that’s not even to mention the fact the report also suggests better treatment of inmates at some of our prisons, abolishing the use of tasers, and re-thinking counter-terrorism legislation. Flip through the full thing here. It’s a terrifying read.

Anyway, activists from Amnesty International and the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre have been spreading the news about asylum policy all day. In fact, the former’s Acting Government Relations Manager Sophie Nicolle was in Geneva as part of a group of delegates who gave submissions at the report hearing.

“The UN Committee Against Torture has sent an unequivocal message to Australia that its asylum seeker policies, including detaining asylum seeker children and offshore processing in appalling conditions, are entirely unacceptable and must stop,” Nicolle said.

“If Australia wants to adhere [to] the convention it’s a signatory to, it must urgently remove all children from immigration detention, end offshore processing and withdraw the Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Legacy Caseload) Bill 2014 from parliament.”

Unfortunately, this is a message that hasn’t quite got through to the government. Another boat of 37 Sri Lankan asylum seekers (with six children) was turned back just a couple of days ago despite concerns being raised by the Tamil Refugee Council about their safety back home. And, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has this afternoon shrugged off the UN’s larger criticisms.

When asked about the fact that this UN report now puts Australia on the world stage in a less than favourable light, Morrison simply stated he didn’t share “their view”. “I don’t find our border protections embarrassing because they’re saving lives,” he said. “We’re getting on with fixing Labor’s mess, it’s a tough job, it’ll have it’s critics but the government remains committed to fixing the mess we were elected to fix.”

“I tell you what’s embarrassing is 1,500 people coming on 800 boats and 1,200 people dying because a government didn’t have the ticker to deal with their border protection problem. That’s embarrassing.”

Looks like there’s still a long way to go.

Photo credit: Greens MPs via photopin cc.