Gillian Triggs to shine a light on Australia’s refugee treatment
12 August 2019 at 5:04 pm
Gillian Triggs’ appointment as the assistant high commissioner for protection at the United Nations has been welcomed by refugee advocates, who say she will be a strong voice on the plight of refugees and asylum seekers around the world.
The former president of the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) was announced in the new role on Friday and will work with the UN high commissioner for refugees, Filippo Grandi.
Grandi said Triggs would bring extensive expertise, knowledge and vast experience in international refugee protection to the role.
Marcella Brassett, policy manager at the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, welcomed the announcement, telling Pro Bono News that Triggs was well placed to bring attention to how Australia was treating refugees.
“I think it’s a really good opportunity to shine a light on how we can do things a bit better and we can work cooperatively on a global scale to support people who are stateless and who are displaced,” Brassett said.
Triggs told the Weekend Australian that she was eager to make sure there was a better global understanding of the Asia-Pacific region and people fleeing persecution.
In Triggs’ five-year term as the president of AHRC, which wrapped up in 2017, she faced constant backlash from the government over her observations and criticisms of refugees and asylum seekers held on Manus and Nauru.
The Coalition government is currently repealing the medevac bill – legislation that was passed against its wishes earlier in the year allowing refugees held on Manus and Nauru detention centres to be brought to Australia for medical treatment.
While Brassett said Triggs was a powerful voice, she didn’t believe the government would show any interest in what she or the rest of the UN had to say on its policies around medical treatment for refugees.
“The government doesn’t show any regard for its obligations to international law and I don’t know if this appointment is going to change the way that they approach medical care and human rights for people seeking asylum in Australia,” she said.
But Brassett said for those working in the refugee advocacy space, and refugees trapped on Manus and Nauru, her appointment was a positive burst of energy.
“This is definitely good news for anyone who’s working in this movement, and it’s good news for people who are trapped on Manus and Nauru… because it gives them some hope that their stories and the impact of these policies on their lives are going to get some global attention,” she said.
Triggs will succeed Volker Türk of Austria who has been appointed as assistant secretary-general for strategic coordination in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General.