UN brands Australia 'racist'



It might be one of our favourite ex-pat countries, but the UN's top Human Rights watchdog has branded Australia's treatment of outback Aborigines and its tough refugee policies as 'racist'.

According to UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay, long-standing policies of locking up asylum seekers had 'cast a shadow over Australia's human rights record', and appeared to be completely arbitrary.

According to the Daily Mail, she said: 'I come from South Africa and lived under this, and am every way attuned to seeing racial discrimination.'

Navi is a former anti-apartheid campaigner and international criminal court judge, and she made her comments at the end of a six-day visit to the country.

She added: 'There is a racial discriminatory element here which I see as rather inhumane treatment of people, judged by their differences, racial, colour or religions.'

Before she left Australia, Pillay held talks with Prime Minister Julia Gillard and expressed her concern about the minority Labour government's latest plan to send hundreds of asylum seekers to Malaysia for refugee processing, hoping to appease voter concern about asylum seekers arriving by boat.

The government has been struggling to handle the flow of illegal immigrants and earlier this month said it had struck a deal with Kuala Lumpur to ensure asylum-seekers caught heading to Australia would be sent to Malaysia, which is not a signatory of the UN refugee convention.

More than 900 people, mostly from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Sri Lanka, have arrived in Australia so far this year.

A total of 134 boats carrying 6,535 people turned up last year, prompting the government to harden immigration policy.

Navi also criticised an 'intervention' policy introduced by the former conservative government and continued by Gillard.

It places controls on welfare spending for Aborigines to help fight alcohol and child sex abuse in remote outback areas.

'In my discussions with Aboriginal people, I could sense the deep hurt and pain that they have suffered because of government policies that are imposed on them,' she said.

There are 460,000 Aborigines in Australia, about 2% of the population. They experience higher rates of unemployment, substance abuse and domestic violence, and also have a 17-year gap in life expectancy with the rest of the population.

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