Australia: UN chief Navi Pillay attacks asylum policy

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay
Image caption Navi Pillay has widened her criticism to Australia's treatment of indigenous people

The UN human rights commissioner has launched a scathing attack on Australia's policy towards "boat people" and its indigenous population.

Navi Pillay said Australia's policy of mandatory detention towards asylum seekers had cast a shadow over its human rights record.

She said that aboriginal people suffered deep hurt and pain because of the government's policies towards them.

So far the Australian government has given no response.

This is the second time in as many days that Ms Pillay has publicly attacked Australia's policy towards asylum seekers.

And now she has widened her criticism to its treatment of indigenous people, the first Australians.

She told Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard that its policy of mandatory detention towards all asylum seekers was in breach of its international obligations, and for many years had cast a shadow over Australia's human rights record.

She said that men, women, and most disturbingly of all, children, had been held in detention, even though they had not committed a crime.

She also slammed the nature of the asylum seeker debate, and what she called the constant political refrain that the country was being flooded by queue-jumpers.

On the question of aboriginal rights she was just as scathing. She criticised what she called inappropriate and inflexible policies that had caused deep hurt and pain.

Speaking on Tuesday, Ms Pillay questioned the legality of Australia's latest plan to deal with the problem of boat people trying to reach its shore.

She said that a proposed deal with Malaysia to send 800 asylum seekers to the country potentially violates refugee law.

Malaysia is not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention.

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