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.
Moscow, which denies its troops have a role in the takeover of Crimea, says people there - a small majority of whom are ethnic Russians - should have the right to secede
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to London to meet with his Russian, as Putin and French President Francois Hollande discussed "possibilities for stepping up international support" for a solution
"Syria is now the biggest humanitarian and peace and security crisis facing the world, with violence reaching unthinkable levels," Ban's press office said
In an interview with the France 24 news channel, Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki accused Saudi and Qatar of sponsoring terrorism in his country.
The building is reported to have had gas smells emanating from it for weeks.
His address to the Knesset was staunchly pro-Israeli, and he delighted his hosts by claiming Jewish ancestral roots and talking tough on Iran
The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran has said Russia is to build two new nuclear power plants in the country.
The Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) rebels have been involved in nearly two decades of conflict that spilled into eastern Congo
Egyptian authorities have tightened their control over the border with the Hamas-run Gaza Strip since last July's ouster of elected president Mohamed Morsi by the Egyptian army.
Edward Dolinsky, head of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, made a lobbying trip to Jerusalem but not received by officials from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government.
"Jordan did not bow to these demands because the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) itself has not adopted a unified position on the need to isolate Qatar over its foreign policies," the lawmaker said on condition of anonymity.
Mustafa Jemilev became the first Crimean Tatar leader to meet with a Russian leader in 200 years. The meeting lasted half an hour, after which Jemilev revealed that the two sides had agreed to continue talks.
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said "With Chancellor Merkel we both believe that signing of the association agreement with Ukraine as soon as possible would be beneficial"
Belarus would ask Russia to send "no more than 12 to 15 planes", indicating that the request had been made under a clause of a "union treaty"
Police stopped protesters from the RCD and MSP who were showing red signs with the word 'Boycott', saying their demonstration was illegal
The one-day meeting appeared to mirror a series of "Friends of Syria" conferences in which Western and Arab nations pledged political and financial support for the rebels