UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called Tuesday for changes to Australian migration and asylum laws.
In a speech at the Australian Human Rights Commission conference, Bachelet called for a national conversation to develop a platform to be presented at Australia’s Universal Periodic Review in front of the UN Human Rights Council. The speech highlighted areas of need like updating laws, filling protection gaps and clarifying exemptions. One focus, in particular, was mandatory detention.
Mandatory detention is also a mainstay of Australia’s migration and asylum system. The people it affects have largely committed no crime; many of them are in very vulnerable situations, and some are children, yet they are subjected to prolonged, indefinite and effectively unreviewable confinement. This includes those who remain in the offshore centres such on Nauru and Manus Island. We have a wealth of evidence to demonstrate the harmful effect this has on their mental and physical well-being.
In addition, the High Commissioner called for societal changes, including avoiding labeling anti-refugee proponents as bigots and racists, ending the silo-ing of humans rights workers, and including youth in the advocacy.
The High Commissioner finished the speech by emphasizing that society should be “anchored” in human rights principles.