[JURIST] The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] called [statement] for changes to the way Australia deals with asylum seekers. As of August 2013, Australia transfers all individuals seeking asylum to a holding camp in Papua New Guinea. From here, they are processed and eventually resettled outside of Australia. This detention can be lengthy, as the Australian government assesses the cases. According to Australia, this is meant to deter people-smugglers. However, following violence at the camp in Manus Island that left one individual dead, the OHCHR has called for Australia to reconsider that policy. A spokesperson for the office said of Australia’s asylum policy:
The practice of detaining migrants and asylum-seekers arriving by boat on a mandatory, prolonged and potentially indefinite basis, without individual assessment, is inherently arbitrary. Moreover, alternatives to immigration detention should always be considered.
The violence stemmed from 35 asylum seekers breaking out of the camp followed by rioting the next day.
Immigration continues to be a contentious issue in Australia. Earlier this month an Australian human rights agency launched [JURIST report] an inquiry into how the government was treating immigrants. In August the UN Human Rights Committee [official website] declared [JURIST report] that Australia’s indefinite detention of 46 recognized refugees on security grounds amounted to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. In November 2009 Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd issued an apology [JURIST report] to poor and underprivileged British children who were sent to Australia and other former British colonies over the last century with the supposed intention of giving them a better life, but were instead subjected to childhood of abuse and hard labor. In July 2005 Australia abandoned mandatory detention [JURIST report] for some undocumented immigrants, one of the most criticized provisions of its immigration law, releasing dozens of children. Australia’s courts also paved the way for more than 1,000 asylum-seekers to avoid deportation.