The U.N. has warned Australia its plan to send refugees, referred to locally as boat people, to Malaysia — has not ratified the torture convention — could violate international law.
Faced with a flood of asylum-seeker arriving on boats from Asia, and in the wake of violent unrest in detention centers — where refugees await a decision on whether they will be allowed to resettle in Australia — Canberra this month announced plans to transfer 800 boat people to Malaysia for processing.
In return, Australia says it will accept and resettle 4,000 registered refugees currently living in Malaysia over a period of four years, Agence France-Presse reports.
The plan has been compared by Australian media with the "Pacific Solution" which was branded "inhumane" by human rights groups before it was repealed by Prime Minister Julia Gillard's center-left Labor Party in 2007.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay She said if it went ahead with the plan, Australia would be sending asylum seekers to a country that hasn't ratified the torture convention or the refugee convention, according to the ABC.
She appealed for Canberra to be more humane towards asylum seekers, saying the country should improve its refugee processing policy rather than sending detainees offshore, AFP reports.
"If Australia is serious about this policy of sending 800 people out to Malaysia, then I think it violates refugee law," said Pillay during an official visit to the country. "They cannot send individuals to a country that has not ratified the torture convention, the convention on refugees."
She continued: "So there are no protections for individuals in Malaysia. And Australia, of all people, that upholds [international standards], should not collaborate with these kinds of schemes."
Amnesty International has reportedly said that asylum seekers sent to Malaysia will face lengthy waits to determine their status, inhumane detention conditions and even torture, in the form of caning.