Concerns of UN rapporteur embarrasses Australia

  • 26/09/2015
United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants Francois Crepeau (Reuters)
United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants Francois Crepeau (Reuters)

The reasons behind the deferral of a trip by a UN expert on migrant rights are a shameful reflection on Australia, a human rights advocate says.

Francois Crepeau, UN special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, said on Friday he had been invited by the Australian government for a visit between September 27 and October 9 to assess the situation of migrants and asylum seekers in the country and in its offshore detention centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea.

But while preparing for the trip, he discovered that under the Border Force Act 2015, it was possible for detention centre workers who disclosed "protected information" to be sent to jail for up to two years, he said.

Mr Crepeau said he had been concerned this would discourage people from fully disclosing information.

He was also extremely disappointed the government had not granted him access to any offshore detention centres, despite months of efforts to gain its cooperation.

Australia director of Human Rights Watch Elaine Pearson called on the government to give Mr Crepeau access and ensure no one would be prosecuted for giving him information.

"It is shameful that a UN expert had to postpone a visit to Australia due to lack of cooperation from the Australian government and a fear of reprisals," she said in a statement on Saturday.

"The Australian government already had a reputation for lack of constructive engagement with the UN on refugee policy issues (and) this lack of cooperation just reinforces that view."

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull earlier this week said he had concerns about asylum seekers being held in Pacific island camps, but gave no indication of immediate change to the hardline policy.