UN concerned over Australian refugee plans


United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Saturday he had concerns about Australia’s approach towards refugees, even as he praised the “model” nation for its record on the world stage. Beginning a Pacific tour expected to focus on the threat of climate change, Ban met Prime Minister Julia Gillard to discuss developments in Libya and the humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa.
“Australia is one of the model countries in many areas,” Ban said, listing its contributions to peace and security and human rights among its efforts.
But he added: “Of course there are some concerns on how to deal with immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees.” Canberra suffered a humiliating setback last week when the High Court blocked its plans to ship up to 800 boatpeople to Malaysia, ruling that asylum seekers could not be sent to another nation unless that country was compelled to adequately protect them.
Malaysia is not a signatory to the UN convention on refugees and the court’s decision was welcomed by activists who had accused Australia of abandoning its international obligations by transferring asylum seekers to a country without proper protection.
Canberra had argued the policy would have dealt a blow to people-smugglers and is taking legal advice on what to do next, as the ruling could also jeopardise its plans to transfer other asylum seekers to Papua New Guinea.