Friday, March 16, 2007

Human Rights in Australia - the Pacific Solution gets another workout - Australia loses its moral compass!

ABC Online reports "refugee groups have condemned the Federal Government's decision to send a group of 82 Sri Lankan asylum seekers to Nauru.

They also have concerns for a 17-year-old travelling with the group, who will also be sent to the Pacific island.

Refugee Action Coalition (RAC) spokesman Ian Rintoul says the Government's actions are a disgrace.

"All they're really doing is revealing how brutal they are as far as human rights is concerned and that they don't give a toss," Mr Rintoul said.

"We think it's an absolute disgrace and are really outraged that the Government is taking this measure.

"It knows that the people on Nauru will not be treated properly.

"They will not have access to Australian law and they're breaching Australians obligations to offer these people protection."

Refugee Council of Australia (RCA) spokesman John Gibson says the group would be better off staying on Christmas Island, where there are much better facilities and where they would have access to lawyers to help with their claims for asylum.

"It's another sorry chapter in this Government's record of treating people who apply for asylum," he said.

Mr Gibson also says he is concerned about the effect it will have on a 17-year-old boy, who is travelling with the group.

A spokeswoman for Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews says the teenager will be sent to Nauru but he will be housed in the community with a friend.

UN criticism

The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says Australia needs to improve the system of processing asylum seekers on Nauru.

UNHCR spokeswoman Ariane Rummery says Nauru lacks important safeguards available to asylum seekers processed in Australia.

"Things like access to an independent merits review, access to the courts and the fact that there's no access to legal assistance," she said.

"So the current situation on Nauru done as it's been practiced in the past would raise concerns and we'd certainly welcome any improvements to that system that Australia could implement."

Mr Andrews has said the Government would prefer the men not be brought to Australia if they are deemed refugees."

In terms of the full spectrum of human rights violations, this decision is better than putting these unfortunate souls in direct harm's way by returning them to Indonesia. However, for all the reasons articulated previously by this blog, the Nauru arrangements are an ongoing blight on Australia's human rights record and will be the subject of forensic analysis at some stage.

The Howard government has breached the UN convention on refugees routinely as part of its political posture to ramp up fear and loathing. It stands condemned for this and a raft of related human rights violations.

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