Concerns raised by UN after reports of Australia blocking asylum seekers at seaListen /
The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) says it's concerned about reports that the Australian navy has been forcing boats carrying asylum seekers back into Indonesian territorial waters.
The agency says instead of blocking boats sailing to Australia, there should be regional cooperation and the sharing of responsibility in order to deal properly with the asylum seekers.
Adrian Edwards is the UNHCR spokesperson in Geneva.
"UNHCR is seeking details from the Australian authorities about recent media reports of the Australian navy forcing boats, presumed to be carrying asylum-seekers on their way to Australia, back to Indonesian territorial waters, as well as reports of plans to buy and provide vessels for future push-backs. UNHCR would be concerned by any policy or practice that involved pushing asylum-seeker boats back to sea without a proper consideration of individual needs for protection." (29")
Adrian Edwards says that past experience has shown that such practices are operationally difficult and potentially dangerous for all concerned.
He adds that such approach would also raise significant issues and potentially place Australia in breach of its international obligations under the Refugee Convention.
Derrick Mbatha, United Nations.