THE chief rights advocate for the United Nations has expressed alarm at a new  push by Australian immigration authorities to immediately reject a number of Sri  Lankan asylum seekers.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay is in Bali for a democracy  summit, also attended by Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Ms Pillay said she had heard numerous concerns that asylum seekers could  languish indefinitely on Nauru and Manus Island under Labor’s revived Pacific  Solution and was especially worried over the plight of children.

”I am highly concerned that detention in regional offshore processing  centres such as in Nauru could result in indefinite detention and other human  rights violations,” she said.

”All people, including migrants, have the right to the highest attainable  standard of physical and mental health, and this form of detention has been  shown at times to violate this right.

”It could well end up as indefinite detention, and people in indefinite  detention suffer significant mental health issues – and Australia should be well  aware of this.”

The number of people arriving in recent months has already far exceeded the  planned capacity for the two centres in the Pacific.

In a bid to toughen the deterrent, Labor plans  to remove the Australian  mainland from the migration zone.

The Immigration Department has  sent home dozens of Sri Lankans –  from  Christmas   and Cocos islands –    deemed not to have a refugee claim.

But Ms Pillay said Sri Lanka was still volatile, despite the end of the civil  war in 2009.

”Now that was a conflict area, matters have not stabilised as yet.

”All the reports reaching me are that people are concerned over controls  being imposed over them,” she said.

”So I can understand if they’d be leaving out of fear or for their personal  security, and it really cries out for all the refugee protections, asylum seeker  protections to be made particularly applicable to them.”

Ms Pillay visited Australia last year, meeting with Ms Gillard, and visiting  detention centres in the country.

”They were all [in] very good condition, but not the detainees.

”These are, after all, not people who are criminals and so  they were  handling the detention badly; many attempts at self-harm, and I’m still  receiving reports of self-harm, suicide attempts and protests at the off-shore  processing facilities. And these are all highly worrying – and unfortunately it  was a predictable outcome.”

Ms Pillay said that combating people smugglers was important to protect  people’s rights and praised regional talks.

”But I must stress that these should be underpinned by strong legal  protections in line with the government’s human rights obligations.”

www.smh.com.au.

 

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