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Grim Outlook on Human Rights in Australia - Report

26 February 2015 at 10:10 am
Xavier Smerdon
Amnesty International’s annual review of human rights has criticised Australia for its poor response to a growing refugee crises at home and overseas - including abuses of the rights of asylum-seekers on its own watch.

Xavier Smerdon | 26 February 2015 at 10:10 am


Grim Outlook on Human Rights in Australia - Report
26 February 2015 at 10:10 am

Amnesty International’s annual review of human rights has criticised Australia for its poor response to a growing refugee crises at home and overseas – including abuses of the rights of asylum-seekers on its own watch.  

The advocacy Not for Profit’s 2014/15 Annual Report On The State Of The World’s Human Rights said that Australia’s “hard-line approach” to asylum-seekers continued, such as the mandatory detention of children seeking asylum, including those held offshore on Nauru.

“The continued detention of children seeking asylum and our inhumane and prolonged offshore processing policy brings Australia international shame and urgently needs to be addressed,” Amnesty International Australia CEO Claire Mallinson said.

“Australia advocated strongly for its citizens overseas – including Australians on death row in Indonesia, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, and now freed prisoner of conscience Peter Greste in Egypt.

“But in its own backyard, Australia has been criticised for its human rights failings throughout 2014.

“It’s…critical that Australia acts with consistency when it comes to human rights at home.”

Amnesty’s report also highlighted that Australia’s “regressive new legislation, introduced in the name of counter-terrorism and security, failed to protect the rights to privacy and freedoms of expression and movement”.

It said Indigenous Australians continued to be heavily over-represented in prisons despite comprising only a fraction of the population, with Indigenous youth being imprisoned at 25 times the rate of non-Indigenous youth.

Away from home, Mallinson said Australia’s global contribution needed to include doing more to address the growing number of displaced people worldwide in the wake of the numerous international conflicts acknowledged in the report, such as those in Syria and Afghanistan.  

"A major consequence of the international community’s inability to protect civilians caught in conflict has helped create one of the worst refugee crises the world has ever seen," she said.

"All leading countries must commit political and financial resources to assist and protect those fleeing danger and resettle the most vulnerable.

"Australia has shown international leadership in human rights, as we saw in the passing of the Arms Trade Treaty and securing a temporary ceasefire to allow aid into Aleppo, and it now needs to show leadership in the face of this growing refugee crisis.

“To date Australia’s response to the refugee crisis has been shamefully inadequate.

“While countries like Jordan and Lebanon are providing support to millions fleeing violence, the Australian Government’s intake pledge stands at a miserly 1,500 per year for the next three years. This number is from within, and not in addition to, our current humanitarian quota of 13,750 places. Australia has the capacity to provide protection to at least 10,000 Syrian refugees.”

According to the report, Australia was not alone in its shortcomings on human rights. Overall, the report asserted that Governments’ responses worldwide to conflict and abuses by states and armed groups had been shameful and ineffective.

It said that while people suffered an escalation in barbarous attacks and repression in 2014, the international community failed to find workable solutions to the most pressing human needs.

“Unless the world’s leaders act immediately to confront the changing nature of conflict and address other shortcomings identified in the report, the human rights outlook for the coming year is bleak: more civilian populations forced to live under the quasi-state control of brutal armed groups, subject to attacks, persecution, and discrimination,” Amnesty International said.

“Of particular concern is the rising power of non-state armed groups, including the group which calls itself Islamic State (IS).”

While Australia sat on the UN Security Council, armed groups committed abuses in at least 35 countries in 2014, more than 1 in 5 of the countries that Amnesty International investigated.

“Governments must stop pretending the protection of civilians is beyond their power and help roll back the tide of suffering of millions,” Mallinson said.

“Leaders, including Australia’s, must do their utmost to protect human rights around the world.”

Amnesty International is a global movement of more than seven million people working under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights standards.

The full report can be read here.

Xavier Smerdon  |  Journalist  |  @XavierSmerdon

Xavier Smerdon is a journalist specialising in the Not for Profit sector. He writes breaking and investigative news articles.

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