In his maiden address as incoming UN high commissioner for human rights, Jordanian Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein yesterday alluded to a refugee resettlement scheme currently being negotiated by the Cambodian and Australian governments that has drawn the ire of rights groups.
The United Nations has largely been silent about the proposal since it was revealed by Cambodian officials in February, but Zeid appeared to make reference to it as he condemned Australia’s detention of asylum seekers in front of the UN Human Rights Council.
“Australia’s policy of off-shore processing for asylum seekers arriving by sea, and its interception and turning back of vessels, is leading to a chain of human rights violations, including arbitrary detention and possible torture following return to home countries,” he said. “It could also lead to the resettlement of migrants in countries that are not adequately equipped.”
Local rights groups and opposition party politicians have repeatedly stated that they do not believe Australia should be “dumping” its refugees into Cambodia, citing, among other things, a lack of basic social services available to the population.
Andrea Giorgetta, Southeast Asia head at the International Federation for Human Rights, said Zeid had made a “clear reference” to the deal between Australia and Cambodia, which she said was “ill-conceived and inhumane”.