UN accuses Australia of ‘demonising asylum seekers’

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The Human Rights Commissioner of the United Nations has questioned Australia’s tough asylum seeker policies, stating that Australia’s mandatory detention regime has “cast a shadow” over its human rights record.

Navi Pillay, a South African former anti-apartheid protestor and now the UN’s Human Rights watchdog, was particularly critical of Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s asylum seeker trade deal with Malaysia.

This agreement, if signed, would see 800 refugees attempting to get to Australia by boat immediately taken to Malaysia instead. In return, Australia would take 4000 genuine refugees from Malaysia over a space of four years.

This is despite the fact that Malaysia has not signed either the International Refugee Convention or the Convention Against Torture.

During an interview with ABC, Pillay voiced concern over this, stating that Australia may “violate refugee law” by sending them to a country where no laws are in place to protect them.

She also spoke of her distress of the omnipresence of political “demonising” of these asylum seekers, saying:

“”[t]he consequence of the constant political refrain that Australia is being ‘flooded’ by people who are ‘queue jumpers’ has resulted in a stigmatisation of an entire group of people, irrespective of where they have come from or what dangers they have fled”.