New Zealand Law Society - Australian lawyers call for Independent Inspector

Australian lawyers call for Independent Inspector

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The Law Council of Australia has called for appointment of an Independent Inspector of Immigration Detention and an Independent Monitor for Migration Laws following leaked reports regarding the welfare of people detained in Nauru.

Law Council President Stuart Clark AM says both Offices are necessary to monitor the integrity of Australia's national security framework and ensure confidence in the safety and integrity of border protection.

A spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has also called on Australia to "expeditiously" end the immigration detention of children.

The comments follow release by the British Guardian newspaper of documents showing serious abuse of asylum seekers detained on Nauru by Australia.

Ravina Shamdasani says the UN is extremely concerned about the serious allegations of violence, sexual assault, degrading treatment and self-harm contained in more than 1,000 incident reports from offshore processing centres on Nauru, many of which reportedly involved children. 

"Many of the migrants, asylum seekers and refugees in these centres were transferred by Australia to Nauru more than three years ago and have been living in very difficult conditions ever since. We have conducted regular visits to Nauru in recent years and many of the allegations contained in the documents are, sadly, consistent with the findings from these visits," she says. 

"We have regularly and persistently brought these to the attention of the governments of Nauru and of Australia. It is not clear to what extent the alleged incidents were properly investigated either by the companies contracted by Australia to run the regional processing centre or by the Nauru police force."

The Australian Law Council President says the Law Council has consistently stated that Australia retains responsibility for the health and safety of asylum seekers transferred to other countries for offshore processing and assessment under the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.

"This responsibility derives from the Commonwealth's common law duty of care and obligations arising under international law," Mr Clark says. 

"Making these key appointments could limit the risk of future harm to asylum seekers held in detention without undermining Australia's border protection policies."

He says the first task of an independent reviewer should be to examine the "disturbing reports of alleged incidents" in Nauru.

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