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.
The Israeli army also arrested 60 Palestinians from East Jerusalem, 42 from Ramallah and al-Bireh, 38 from Jenin, 35 from Nablus, 19 from Qalqilya and 19 from Bethlehem.
Hopes of de-escalation evaporated on Saturday with Ukraine's representative and separatist envoys accusing the other of sabotaging negotiations.
Protesters also demanded the release of Yemeni prisoners in Saudi prisons.
Anan Abu Saleh, 19, has been detained at a checkpoint near Hebron's Ibrahimi Mosque Complex.
Six Bulgarian U.N. aid workers who were detained by rebels in Sudan's strife-torn South Kordofan region have been released, the Bulgarian foreign ministry said Sunday
Up to 13,000 march for greater democracy in first protest since last year's Umbrella Movement
Sixty-two percent favoured Greece staying in the 19-country currency union.
Jordan's security and military agencies were making constant checks to see whether the pilot, Muath al-Kasaesbeh, was still alive
All eyes on PM's keynote speech on Monday
An online video released Saturday purports to show the beheading of journalist Kenji Goto.
EDL’s demo will host not only the league’s so-called "divisions" of activists but also Islam-hating members of Polish, Belgium and Scottish "Defence Leagues" as well as Britain First, described by critics as a "fascist squad" and a newly founded organization which imitates the anti-Islamic movement which has rapidly gained support recently in Germany - Pegida UK.
Accusations of such mass atrocities by Shi'ite militias threaten to undermine Abadi's efforts to win Sunni Muslim support to battle ISIS, which grabbed large parts of northern and western Iraq last year.
Thousands of people including Ak Party deputies took to the streets in Erzurum province.
Tens of thousands marched in Madrid on Saturday in the biggest show of support yet for anti-austerity party Podemos, whose surging popularity and policies have drawn comparisons with Greece's new Syriza rulers.