Human Rights for All (HR4A) has received an advance draft, not yet publically available, of an opinion of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD).
The opinion calls for Australia to “urgently review the Migration Act (1958) in the light of its obligations under international law” in relation to the provisions governing the detention of asylum seekers and refugees.
Through the opinion, the UN also expressed concern at the number of cases emanating from Australia in relation to indefinite arbitrary detention.
The UN further noted the repeated failure by the Australian Government to explain how reviews of detention conducted by the Government itself satisfy the guarantee of rights in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Australia currently sits on the UN Human Rights Council, of which the WGAD is a sub-body.
This is the seventh WGAD opinion issued within the last two years that calls for the release of individual asylum seekers from Australian detention centres.
Two more opinions are expected before the end of the year.
The opinion notes that the UN may visit Australia to look at detention practices, at the invitation of the Australian Government.
The as yet released opinion calls for the immediate release of an Iranian refugee, held in Australian onshore detention centres for nearly three years. Edris, an Iranian man from a minority Arab ethnic group had sought asylum in Australia after his family’s lands were confiscated and who then converted to Christianity.
Edris is an extremely vulnerable asylum seeker – his mental and physical health has deteriorated significantly while in detention. He has a range of ongoing mental health conditions and was recently hospitalized for deep vein thrombosis and a pulmonary embolism.
Through the opinion, the UN calls for the immediate release of Edris, and notes that his detention was not in pursuance of a legitimate aim and no alternatives to detention were considered.
Alison Battisson, Director Principal of law firm Human Rights for All, the source of the WGAD submission, said:
“The UN has taken the extraordinary step of calling on a sovereign Government to amend its national legislation. In doing so, the UN has highlighted Australia’s appalling practice of using detention as a default mechanism for asylum seekers and refugees.”
“Edris is a walking time bomb – any detention is dangerous and potentially life threatening for him.”
“How many more times will the Australia Government – now lead by the “new” Liberal Party – ignore the recommendations of a sub-body of the very Council it campaigned to get a seat on. The UN has made measured opinions regarding specific individuals – surely the Government had release these people.”