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Australia's asylum policies repeatedly criticised by UN officials at conference

The Guardian (Australia) - April 23, 2014

Paul Farrell United Nations officials have repeatedly criticised Australia's refugee policies at a regional conference in Indonesia.

The potential resettlement of refugees in Cambodia and policy of turning back boats were both singled out at the two-day conference in Jakarta.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) regional protection adviser, Tom Vargas, said that sending refugees to Cambodia was not a "durable" solution for refugees.

"A real solution is not to send them to a country that is still recovering from a horrible civil war that killed millions of its people... It's not in the spirit of resettlement as far as I can tell," Fairfax media reported him saying.

Another UNHCR official said the government had not been cooperating with its investigation into allegations that navy personnel burned the hands of asylum seekers. UNHCR regional coordinator James Lynch said when the commission had requested information from Australia regarding the allegations, the Australian government responded: "We don't need to do an investigation because we've done nothing wrong."

The immigration minister, Scott Morrison, said of the allegations at the time that it was "not for the government to disprove the negative, it's for those who have allegations to actually prove the positive".

The ABC's reporting of the claims drew sustained criticism from the federal government, and the prime minister, Tony Abbott, and the defence minister, David Johnston, strongly condemned the allegations.

A spokesman for Morrison's office said: "After four months without a single successful people smuggling venture to Australia, and even longer since anyone has perished at sea on such ventures, the Coalition's strong border protection policies are clearly working."

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/23/australias-asylum-policies-repeatedly-criticised-by-un-officials-at-conference.

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