UNHCR: Asylum seekers facing harsh conditions at Pacific Island asylum centres

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Boat carrying Sri Lankan asylum seekers arriving in Australia:UNHCR

Asylum-seekers transferred from Australia to processing centres at Nauru and in Papua New Guinea (PNG) are living in conditions that do not meet international standards of treatment, according to the United Nations Refugee agency (UNHCR).

In a report assessing Australia's asylum policies and practices, UNHCR says the asylum seekers were living in conditions which may constitute mandatory detention with no access to a fair and efficient system for assessing refugee claims.

While appreciating Australia's determination to respond robustly to the challenges of people smuggling and to dissuade people from undertaking dangerous irregular travel by sea, UNHCR says the responses must not neglect the compelling protection needs, safety and dignity of the individuals affected.

Adrian Edwards is UNHCR Spokesperson in Geneva.

"In both Nauru and PNG the current policies, operational approaches and harsh physical conditions do not meet international standards – they also have a profound impact on the men, women and children housed there.We are concerned that as such they constitute mandatory detention which is not compatible with international law. We are also worried that they do not provide a fair and efficient system for assessing refugee claims.They do not provide safe and humane refugee conditions of treatment in detention, and do not provide for adequate and timely solutions for recognized refugees. At both centres, we have concerns about the psycho-social well-being of vulnerable people who in many cases can include survivors of torture and trauma and unaccompanied children."

UNHCR says children , particularly those who are unaccompanied, should not be transferred to the asylum centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea unless and until there has been a marked improvement in conditions in both centres.

Patrick Maigua, United Nations Radio, Geneva.

Duration 1:57″

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