Australia denies refugee policy will halt UN bid
13 Dec 2016 - 12:35
MELBOURNE, Australia: Australia’s foreign minister has denied allegations that its United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) candidacy has been impaired by its oft-criticized policy of detaining and processing asylum seekers offshore.
The country is competing alongside France and Spain for a three-year term on the 47-member council from 2018 -- the first time it has sought membership.
Speaking at a function in Sydney on Monday night, Julie Bishop acknowledged that she anticipates a "chorus of criticism" over detention centers in Papua New Guinea and Nauru after delivering an address which outlined Australia's case for election to the council.
She defended the asylum seeker policy by underlining that it had thwarted people smuggling operations.
“There is no humanity in a government that puts in place a legislative framework against advice that can and did have the effect of luring vulnerable people to their deaths,” she said, referring to the previous government's policy under which boatloads of people embarked on the treacherous journey from Indonesia to mainland Australia, during which around 1200 drowned.
Australia’s refugee policy is polarizing.
The country's two leading political parties, the ruling Liberal-National coalition and the Labor opposition both support it, British politician Nigel Farage, whose anti-immigration stance was instrumental in securing the Brexit vote, praises it, while human rights organization Amnesty International and the UN special rapporteur on human rights condemn it.
Last month, at the end of an 18-day visit to Australia and Nauru, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights of migrants Francois Crepeau commended Australia for increasing its annual refugee intake to 18,750 from 2018 and welcoming 12,000 Syrian refugees.
But Crepeau went onto say: “Some of Australia's migration policies have increasingly eroded the human rights of migrants in contravention of its international human rights and humanitarian obligations."
According to Sky News, Bishop said that if elected to the council Australia would continue to push for the abolition of the death penalty around the world and emphasize the need to protect freedom of expression and gender equality.
“Australia is committed to respecting human rights as one of the fundamental ingredients of the global norms that encourage peace and prosperity,” she said.
“As an international community, we should think of human rights as being inextricably linked to economic development and therefore to regional stability and prosperity. That is why Australia is committed to upholding and promoting human rights and will do so with vigor if we are elected to the Human Rights Council.