World Bulletin/News Desk
Australia's plan to reopen detention centres on remote Pacific islands for asylum seekers and migrants who arrive by sea could violate their human rights and harm their mental health, the United Nations warned on Friday.
Both the U.N. refugee agency and the U.N. human rights office said they were studying the plan, announced on Monday, to reopen immigrant detention camps in Naura and Papua New Guinea.
"We do not want to see a return to lengthy delays in remote island centres for asylum seekers and refugees before durable solutions are found. We are also concerned about the psychological impact for those individuals who would be affected," Adrian Edwards of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) told a news briefing in Geneva.
Technically, the plan did not appear to violate the 1951 U.N. refugee convention, ratified by Australia, "But we have to look at how this is implemented," he said.
The plan was announced after a report said 964 asylum seekers had died since 2001 while making the dangerous sea journey from their homelands to Australia.
"While applauding the goal to protect the lives of the migrants and asylum seekers who seek entry to Australia, we are concerned that a reopening of offshore detention centres could result in violations of human rights, including potentially indefinite detention," U.N. human rights spokesman Xabier Celaya said in a statement.
"The U.N. Human Rights office has long-standing concerns about Australia's mandatory detention regime," he said.
Immigration detention should be a "measure of last resort, only permissible for the shortest period of time and only when no less restrictive measure is available," Celaya said.
Refugee policy is an emotive subject in Australia, even though the country receives only a small number of the world's asylum seekers each year. The UNHCR says Australia received 11,500 asylum claims in 2011, down nine percent from the year before, out of 441,000 lodged in the West that year.
"Asylum levels in Australia remain below those recorded by many other industrialised and non-industrialised countries," the UNHCR said in March.
The policy is a major shift for Prime Minister Julia Gillard and a win for the conservative opposition, which has long pushed for the government to reopen a detention centre on Nauru and abandon its planned refugee-swap agreement with Malaysia.
Former conservative prime minister John Howard set up detention centres on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island and in Nauru under his Pacific solution, which aimed to deter people smugglers and remove automatic access to Australia for those granted refugee status.
Manus Island was closed in 2004, and Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd shut down the Nauru detention centre in late 2007.
Internally displaced persons are either staying at evacuation centers or at their relative’s houses in nearby towns
18 struck down by lightning, 5 killed when wall collapses due to heavy rain
Indonesian Siti Aisyah, 25, and Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, 28, have been charged with the murder of Kim, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in February.
Clashes with ISIL-linked Maute militants to end soon, Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr. says
The Chinese foreign ministry urged Pyongyang in a statement to refrain from activities that go against United Nations Security Council resolutions.
6-day conference sees 37 of 45 principles agreed but no deal on states' autonomy
Rescue workers recover 29 bodies buried under debris, India helps in relief efforts
President Rodrigo Duterte imposed martial law across the southern third of the Philippines shortly after the fighting erupted, warning the gunmen were involved in an effort by the ISIL group to set up a local caliphate.
Fire weapons 'instead of throwing rocks at us,' says Gen. Bipin Rawat
News of the launch comes as US President Donald Trump seeks tougher sanctions against the isolated nuclear-armed regime, which is on a quest to develop a missile capable of reaching the continental United States.
Under questioning, the 37-year-old admitted he had a dozen chunks of gold weighing 1.4 kilograms, or three pounds, stashed in his rectum.
The North's official Korean Central News Agency said Kim "watched the test of a new-type anti-aircraft guided weapon system", which was aimed at "detecting and striking different targets flying from any direction".
The plane, which had departed from Kathmandu, broke into three pieces when it crashed in heavy fog while trying to land at Lukla airport on Saturday.
Tensions between the two economic superpowers have risen in recent years over the disputed waterway, which China claims almost in full despite counter-claims from other Asian nations.
"Until the police and the armed forces say the Philippines is safe, this martial law will continue. I will not listen to others. The Supreme Court, congress, they are not here," Duterte told soldiers on Saturday.
Floodwaters were receding in some areas after a break in the rain, giving authorities a chance to deliver much-needed supplies to victims who lost everything as torrents of water swept away their homes.