Australia's detention of 46 refugees deemed cruel and degrading

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Villawood Immigration Detention Centre outside Sydney, Australia. Photo: IRIN

Australia's indefinite detention of 46 recognized refugees on security grounds amounted to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, inflicting serious psychological harm on them, a UN Committee has found after examining their cases.

The Geneva-based Human Rights Committee said Australia should release the refugees, who have been held for at least two and a half years, and offer them compensation and rehabilitation.

The refugees — 42 Tamils from Sri Lanka, three Rohingya from Myanmar and a Kuwaiti — brought their complaints to the Human Rights Committee, arguing that they were unable to challenge the legality of their detention in the Australian courts.

They had been recognized as refugees who could not be returned to their home countries but were refused visas to stay in Australia because they were deemed to pose a security risk, and so were held in immigration detention facilities.

The Committee, composed of 18 independent human rights experts, found that the refugees' detention was arbitrary and violated the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)*, which states that no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. The Committee reached its conclusion based principally on the fact that the refugees were not told the reasons for the negative security assessment and so were unable to mount a legal challenge to their indefinite detention.

Donn Bobb, United Nations.

Duration: 1’16″

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