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.
Afghanistan's highest court has ruled that the police officer convicted of murdering Associated Press photographer Anja Niedringhaus should serve 20 years in prison
The country's ambassador to the United States told NBC on Sunday morning, Saudi Arabia is focussing on using air strikes.
Egypt lists 17 Brotherhood leaders including the former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood Mohamed Mahdi Akef and the head of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party Saad al-Katatni, as 'terrorist' figures
According to Independent news, foreign students banned from British university science lessons on the gorunds that they might learn how to make nuclear and chemical weapons
Saudi Arabia accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of hypocrisy on Sunday, telling an Arab summit that he should not express support for the Middle East while fuelling instability by supporting Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.
The march headed towards the museum where a memorial for the victims of the attack will be inaugurated
Slovenian President Borut Pahor has said ahead of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's official visit Monday, Slovenia supports Turkey's EU membership
Arab leaders said Saudi-led operation would continue until the Iranian-allied Houthis withdraw. They also announced the formation of a unified military force to counter growing security threats from Yemen to Libya.
Collation of results continues and final results are not expected until Monday
Tens of thousands of Tunisians marched through the capital in a show of solidarity against museum attack on Sunday, hours after the government said its forces had killed nine members of a group suspected of carrying out this month's Bardo Museum attack.
According a port official, a Chinese warship approach the port of Aden to evacuate nationals.
An Israeli court has issued an order to demolish Palestinian village Susya and relocate its residents. The village was built even before the Israeli occupation of the West Bank in 1967.
At least 15 people wounded from anti-aircraft missiles shrapnel used by Houthis against warplanes of the Saudi-led coalition in Western Yemen
According to a Yemeni NGO Mwatana Organization for Human Rights (MOHR), at least 27 civilians – including 15 children – were killed in Yemen's Sanaa province.
Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi has fired Ahmed Ali Saleh who is son of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Tunisian security forces have killed a senior Algerian suspected who they accuse of helping orchestrate the Bardo museum attack which targeted foreign tourists, Tunisia's Prime Minister Habib Essid said on Sunday.