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Possible transfer of 267 people from Australia to Nauru

Press Release – United Nations

GENEVA (3 February 2016) – We are very concerned about the situation of the 267 people, including up to 80 children, at risk of being transferred from Australia to Nauru following the High Courts decision delivered this morning in Canberra.Comment by the Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Rupert Colville, on the possible transfer of 267 people from Australia to Nauru

GENEVA (3 February 2016) – We are very concerned about the situation of the 267 people, including up to 80 children, at risk of being transferred from Australia to Nauru following the High Court’s decision delivered this morning in Canberra.

Central to the decision was a retrospective amendment to the Migration Act which was passed by the Australian Parliament shortly after the case was initiated and which validated the offshore processing of asylum seekers. We are concerned that this amendment, as well as broader aspects of Australia’s policy on the treatment of migrants and asylum seekers arriving without prior authorisation, significantly contravenes the letter and spirit of international human rights law.

Most of these people were reportedly brought to Australia from Nauru to receive medical treatment and are in a fragile physical and mental state. The group includes more than 12 women and at least one child who have allegedly suffered sexual assault or harassment while in Nauru. The group also includes 37 children born in Australia.

We believe that transferring these 267 individuals to Nauru could further damage their physical and mental health, and would put Australia at risk of breaching its obligation not to return any person to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment under the Convention against Torture. Moreover, sending these children to Nauru could contravene Australia’s obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. We remind Australia that children, regardless of their legal status, have the right to be treated as children first and foremost, and urge Australia to ensure that the principle of the best interests of the child takes precedence over migration management or administrative considerations.

While we appreciate Australia’s efforts to upgrade medical facilities in Nauru, the country is still not equipped to respond to the needs of severely traumatized individuals, including children. In addition, there are inadequate systems for child protection, education or social welfare in place. Several independent inquiries, including the 2014 Philip Moss inquiry and the 2015 Senate inquiry, have found that Nauru is neither a safe nor an appropriate environment to send people in situations of vulnerability to, in particular children.

We therefore urge the Australian Government to refrain from transferring all concerned individuals to Nauru.
ENDS

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