UN urges Australia not to send asylum-seekers to Nauru
The United Nations has urged the Australian government to refrain from transferring hundreds of asylum-seekers to the remote Pacific outpost of Nauru, joining a chorus of international concern and warning Canberra it risks contravening international human rights law.
Australia's highest court Wednesday opened the way for more than 260 asylum-seekers to be sent to the tiny island republic of Nauru, including women allegedly sexually assaulted there, when it dismissed a challenge to its hardline immigration policy.
The High Court case was brought by a Bangladeshi woman who arrived on an unauthorised boat and was dispatched to Nauru before being brought pregnant to Australia for urgent medical treatment.
In a statement the UN said it was "very concerned" for the group at risk of being transferred and that most are in a fragile physical and mental state after reportedly being brought to Australia from Nauru to receive medical treatment.
"We believe that transferring these 267 individuals... would put Australia at risk of breaching its obligation not to return any person to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment under the Convention against Torture," said Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN human rights agency.
He added that sending the children to Nauru could also contravene Australia's obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
"While we appreciate Australia's efforts to upgrade medical facilities in Nauru, the country is still not equipped to respond to the needs of severely traumatized individuals, including children... We therefore urge the Australian Government to refrain from transferring all concerned individuals to Nauru."
Under Canberra's tough immigration policy, asylum-seekers attempting to reach Australia by boat are turned back or sent to camps on Nauru or Papua New Guinea and barred from resettling on the island continent even if found to be refugees.
The government has defended the policy -- which has drawn strong criticism from rights groups -- as a means to deter people-smuggling boats.
Earlier in the day Amnesty International, UNICEF and refugee advocates also expressed concerns about the prospect of asylum-seekers being returned to Nauru, from where allegations of abuses, including rape, have arisen.
© 2016 AFP