In Australia UN watchdog urges country to end offshore immigrant detentions

A UN rights watchdog urged Australia Thursday to stop sending refugees to offshore detention centres, expressing serious concern about conditions and abuses at the facilities.

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Refugees gesture inside the Manus detention camp in Papua New Guinea on October 31, 2017, the day of the camp's expected closure play

Refugees gesture inside the Manus detention camp in Papua New Guinea on October 31, 2017, the day of the camp's expected closure

(Nick McKim/AFP/File)
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A UN rights watchdog urged Australia Thursday to stop sending refugees to offshore detention centres, expressing serious concern about conditions and abuses at the facilities.

The UN Human Rights Committee also called on Australia to "take all measures necessary" to protect the rights of those impacted by the closure of such facilities, like the 600 men who have refused to leave a camp on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island.

Canberra has long sent asylum-seekers trying to reach Australia by sea to isolated outposts on its own Christmas Island territory and on Nauru and Papua New Guinea's Manus Island.

The detention camps' conditions have been widely criticised by the UN, refugee advocates and medical professionals.

Australia insists its tough immigration policy against boat people dissuades would-be migrants from attempting the dangerous crossing to Australia and has therefore prevented hundreds of deaths at sea.

But the team of 18 independent experts on Thursday voiced alarm at the conditions in offshore immigration processing centres in Papua New Guinea and Nauru, where children are also housed, pointing to "instances of assault, sexual abuse, self-harm and suspicious deaths."

Australia, it said, should "end its offshore transfer arrangements and cease any further transfers of refugees or asylum-seekers to Nauru, Papua New Guinea or an other regional processing country," they said in a report.

They also urged Australia to close the detention centre on Christmas Island.

And they slammed the closure of the Manus Island centre on October 31 "without adequate arrangements for long-term viable relocation solutions for all refugees and asylum-seekers transferred there."

That facility was closed more than a week ago after the PNG Supreme Court ruled last year it was unconstitutional, and authorities have warned they will move in using force if necessary if those remaining do not leave by the weekend.

Barred from moving to Australia, the refugees there have been offered transfers to another Pacific on facility on Nauru, but reportedly few have accepted.

Water, power and food supplies have been cut with a PNG court on Tuesday rejecting one refugee's application to have them restored.

Canberra has strongly rejected calls to move the refugees to Australia and instead has tried to resettle them in third countries, including the United States.

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