UN informed of Australia’s secretive return of Vietnamese asylum seekers


The Australian Government has secretly returned 46 asylum seekers to Vietnam without any transparency or due process. Late on Friday 17 April, when news first broke that the asylum seekers were in Australian custody somewhere on the high seas, the Human Rights Law Centre sent an urgent communication to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

HRLC Director of Legal Advocacy, Daniel Webb, said it was vital the United Nations be kept fully updated of Australia’s increasing contempt for international human rights law.

“Australia voluntarily signs international human rights treaties because we agree with the basic minimum standards of treatment they protect. We should never breach those minimum standards. When we do, it’s vital that there be accountability on the world stage,” said Mr Webb.

Mr Webb said that Australia had clear obligations under the Refugee Convention and other human rights treaties to not return people to harm and that hasty and unfair ‘screening’ processes conducted at sea didn’t cut it.

“Australia should never return a refugee to persecution. The only way to ensure we don’t is to thoroughly, fairly and individually assess protection claims, yet that’s precisely what the Government refuses to do when conducting secretive boat turn-backs,” said Mr Webb.

As Mr Webb said in The Age over the weekend, “All governments – whatever their policy position – should respect democracy and should respect the rule of law. Intercepting and returning asylum seekers behind a veil of secrecy is a deliberate subversion of both.”

A copy of the HRLC letter to the UN Special Rapporteur can be found here.

“If the government truly believed its actions were humane, justified and legal, why would it go to such extraordinary lengths to hide them from view?” said Mr Webb.

First published on the Human Rights Law Centre website, 21/04/2015

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I am a writer and editor, passionate about helping refugees and about exploring the challenges life throws at us through my writing. A former journalist, I previously worked in publishing and taught French to university students. I am a member of Supporting Asylum Seekers Sydney (SASS) and have also served on the board of my children’s school for the past 13 years, including three terms as vice-president. My work has appeared in online and print publications including The Sydney Morning Herald, The Guardian, Independent Australia, New Matilda, Eureka Street, Jewish Literary Journal, The Forward and Online Opinion. I can be contacted at sebban@tpg.com.au Tôi là nhà văn/nhà báo, và cũng là chủ bút. Với nhiệt tâm muốn giúp đỡ cho người tị nạn và tìm hiểu sâu xa hơn về những khó khăn trong cuộc sống mà chúng ta phải đương đầu qua những bài viết của tôi. Là một cựu phóng viên, trước đây tôi từng cho phát hành các ấn phẩm và đã từng dạy môn Pháp ngữ cho sinh viên đại học. Tôi là thành viên của Tổ chức Giúp đỡ Người Tầm Trú Sydney (Supporting Asylum Seekers Sydney, SASS); và trong 13 năm qua, tôi cũng là thành viên trong ban đại diện hội phụ huynh học sinh của trường các con tôi học, với ba nhiệm kỳ làm phó chủ tịch. Những bài viết của tôi được đăng trên báo và trên trang mạng của những tờ báo như The Sydney Morning Herald, The Guardian, Independent Australia, New Matilda, Eureka Street, Jewish Literary Journal, The Forward and Online Opinion. Để liên lạc với tôi, xin gởi email đến địa chỉ sebban@tpg.com.au