A UN human rights expert called on [statement] all Australians Wednesday to end racial discrimination within the country. UN Special Rapporteur on racism Mutuma Ruteere asked [press release] the country to strengthen efforts to end racism, xenophobia and other forms of discrimination within the country. He specifically mentioned discrimination against indigenous people, migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers, Muslims, and those of African descent. After a fact-finding visit, Ruteere claimed that only with the political leadership and support of the media can racism end in Australia. Ruteere especially noted the hardship of indigenous people who are disproportionately targeted in the criminal justice system and more regularly unemployed. The expert also spoke on instances of xenophobia and antisemitism. Ruteere has asked the government to create a broad human rights bill that will protect all people from discrimination. These findings will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2017.
Australia has particularly been under fire for its treatment of refugees. Amnesty International has accused Australia of using the island of Nauru as an “open-air prison” [JURIST report] as a means to prevent immigration. In August Australia announced [JURIST report] that Australia and Papua New Guinea intend on closing the controversial Manus Island detention center. That same month AI and Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued reports [JURIST report] stating that Australia is ignoring inhumane treatment of detainees in Nauru. Papua New Guinea officials claimed in May that Australian refugees are not being detained [JURIST report] on Manus Island, as they are given access to mainland Australia. The statement by officials followed a ruling by the Papua New Guinea Supreme Court that the Australian off-shore detention facility was illegal, in direct opposition to a ruling [JURIST report] by the Australian Supreme Court earlier this year that the off-shore detention was legal.