UN questions legality of Australia's asylum seeker deal with Malaysia

13:08, May 24, 2011      

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The United Nations (UN) high commissioner for human rights on Tuesday questioned Australia's asylum seeker deal with Malaysia, saying the plan could violate international law.

Earlier this month, the federal government announced an asylum seeker agreement with Malaysia, which will see up to 800 new boat arrivals to be relocated to Malaysia for processing, in return for Australia resettling 4,000 Malaysian refugees.

UN high commissioner Navi Pillay warned that asylum seekers are not adequately protected in Malaysia, and that the deal with Malaysia may violate international law.

"If Australia is serious ... about sending 800 people out to Malaysia then I think it violates refugee law," she told ABC News in a forum in Sydney.

"It cannot send individuals to a country that has not ratified the torture convention, the convention on refugees."

Pillay also expressed her distress over Australia's mandatory detention policy, saying that it was not effective and cost Australia too much money.

She said the Malaysia deal will be expensive, and Australia should spend resources on speeding up the process for asylum seekers, rather than investing huge amounts of money on detention centers and shipping people out to Malaysia.

Refugee advocates welcomed Pillay's comments, with Human Rights Law Center executive director Phil Lynch called on Labor government to walk away from the deal with Malaysia, which is yet to be finalized.

"Australia's obligation is to provide protection to those people who lawfully seek asylum under the refugees convention," Lynch told ABC Radio on Tuesday.

"That is Australia's international obligation, it is our moral obligation, it is our human obligation."

Pillay said she will raise her concerns on the refugee issues when she meets Prime Minister Julia Gillard in Canberra of Australia later on Tuesday.

Source: Xinhua
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