UN won’t work with Labor on asylum-seeker processing on Nauru and Manus Island

August 24, 2012

nauru detention

An undated photograph of an asylum seeker on Nauru who had been in detention for 18 months. Published in January 2004. Picture: John Feder Source: Herald Sun

THE United Nations High Commission for Refugees is refusing to work with the federal government to process asylum-seekers on Nauru and Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island.

The Angus Houston-led expert panel on asylum-seekers said the UNHCR’s involvement in registration and processing of refugees from Nauru and Manus Island would be “highly desirable”, and should be urgently pursued.

But the UNHCR’s regional representative Rick Towle today said the organisation would play an arms-length monitoring role in relation to the facilities under the refugee convention, but would not play any part in their management.

“We believe primarily that this is a matter for Australia’s responsibilities under the refugee convention, working with two other countries that are also convention states,” Mr Towle told the ABC’s World Today program.


“We do not see that the UNHCR has an active role to play in those arrangements.

“Australia may choose to transfer physically people to other jurisdictions, but we believe that under international law very clearly Australia is not absolved of its legal responsibilities to protect people through all aspects of the processing and solutions.”

Mr Towle said the UNHCR had many concerns with Australia’s new offshore processing arrangements.

He said it was difficult to make “full and credible” refugee status determinations in such remote locations, and was concerned about the difficulties in delivering adequate health and care to asylum-seekers on the islands.

“We are dealing with very vulnerable populations, particularly women and children (and) unaccompanied minors, and to try and manage all of their needs in a protection-appropriate way in remote places, particularly in the Pacific, has proven to be challenging in the past and we have no doubt it will be challenging again in the future,” Mr Towle said.

Under the government’s new “no advantage” principle, asylum-seekers will remain on Nauru and Manus Island for as long as they would have waited for resettlement if they stayed in transit countries such as Indonesia or Malaysia.

Mr Towle said the UNHCR was “fundamentally opposed” to mandatory detention, and believed any arrangements to transfer asylum-seekers to Nauru and PNG “do not involve detention any longer than is absolutely necessary”.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen’s office said the UNHCR’s decision was not unexpected.

Mr Bowen told Sky News last week that he was “not envisaging them being involved in the processing on Nauru or Manus Island”.

“They will be very interested in this; they’ll want to provide us with feedback on it, of course.

“But this will be an operation which doesn’t require UNHCR involvement in terms of the processing of people.”

-With Lauren Wilson

This story was originally published here: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/immigration/un-wont-work-with-labor-on-asylum-seeker-processing-on-nauru-and-manus-island/story-fn9hm1gu-1226457449222?sv=979f8eb1e13d06677841ff1c4a4a2886



Filed under PNG/Pacific Solution, UNHCR

2 responses to “UN won’t work with Labor on asylum-seeker processing on Nauru and Manus Island

  1. Shokrullah Qasemi

    About 150 asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Iraq are on huntger strike from 15:00 PM, 24th August 2012 to protest against the Australian ministry of immigration’s decision to send these asylum seekers to Naurul island. The asylum seekers who arrived during the 12 to 13th August 2012 had no previouse awarness about the Australian recent pacific solution (Nauru). The protesters are demonding to be processed in Australia not to Nauru or PNG.

  2. Naqsh Murtaza

    Despite the justification of Australian Government on Tough asylum seekers policy, though the Australian government has repeatedly assuring that the assessment of asylum seekers detained on the Pacific Island will be done as quickly as possible. But nobody knows exactly what will happen once the asylum seekers are sent to Nauru and Manus Island, for how many long and frustrated years they will be kept there, and how many of the asylum seekers who are children/women and men will suffer mental breakdown or may deal with some hard psychological problems in the future if they are sent to Nauru and Manus Island, I don’t know why the Australian Government isn’t in a position to understand huge problem of the asylum seekers who risk their lives for a better tomorrow, and the Australian government are jeopardizing their life in a very hard in fact inhuman detention centers offshore, since UNHCR and some other international human rights watch also condemning this act as in human.

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