UN accuses Australia of backtracking on asylum
SYDNEY – ReutersThe U.N. refugee agency accused Australia yesterday of reneging on an agreement to settle some vulnerable asylum seekers held in controversial offshore detention centres, but Canberra said no such agreement existed.
Australia takes a hard line on asylum seekers, with those intercepted at sea sent to camps on the South Pacific island of Nauru and Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island and told they will not be settled in Australia. The UNHCR said Australia agreed to settle some of the near 2,000 pepole held offshore in exchange for the agency helping facilitate a swap deal with the U.S.
“We agreed to do so on the clear understanding that vulnerable refugees with close family ties in Australia would ultimately be allowed to settle there,” UNHCR High Commissioner Filippo Grandi said in a statement. “UNHCR has recently been informed by Australia that it refuses to accept even these refugees.”
A speaker for Australia’s immigration minister told Reuters no such agreement existed. The swap deal, which involves the U.S. taking refugees from the offshore centers while Australia accepts refugees from Central America, is designed in part to help Australia empty the criticized offshore facilities.