UNHCR criticises Australia child refugees plan

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The UN refugees agency on Friday criticised Australia's plans to include children among 800 asylum seekers to be sent to Malaysia to have their refugee claims assessed.

"We are not able to lend our support to the text as it currently stands because of the absence of the operating protection safegaurds we have been calling for," said Adrian Edwards, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, referring to a draft memorandum of understanding between Australia and Malaysia.

"UNHCR has always stipulated that one of our specific requirements with regard to the transfers is that protection safeguards are in place to protect vulnerable groups, especially unaccompanied children," he added.

In a deal between Malaysia and Australia, unaccompanied minors will be included in a plan to send 800 asylum seekers to Malaysia for processing.

In exchange, Australia will accept some 4,000 registered refugees from the southeast Asian nation.

The plan has been severely criticised by rights groups because Malaysia is not a signatory to the UN refugee convention, and over concerns that asylum seekers sent to Malaysia could be mistreated.

© 2011 AFP

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