The general secretary of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, has urged Australia’s prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, to urgently review the country’s policy towards asylum seekers.
When the pair met in Kuala Lumpur on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit last week, they discussed a range of issues including counter terrorism, climate change and refugees.
While acknowledging its contribution to resettling refugees, Mr Ban appeared to rebuke Australia for its contemporary attitude towards those arriving by boat.
“Noting Australia’s longstanding commitment to refugee resettlement, the Secretary-General appealed to the Prime Minister to share responsibilities,” a statement following the meeting read.
“The Secretary-General expressed concern over the detention conditions in Australia’s offshore processing centres and encouraged the Prime Minister to reconsider Operation Sovereign Borders.”
The plea comes as reports on Friday suggested another boat suspected with refugees aboard was turned back by Australian authorities off Christmas Island. Earlier this month, violence broke out in the migrant detention centre on Christmas Island following the death of an escaped detainee.
Cancel Syrian refugee intake, says Bernardi
Meanwhile, Mr Turnbull is under pressure from within his own party to review the government’s commitment to resettle 12,000 refugees from Syria.
On Monday, Liberal senator Cory Bernardi said the government should cancel the intake in light of this month’s terrorist attacks in Paris.
“We have extremist elements at work in this country,” Mr Bernardi told the ABC’s Capital Hill programme.
“Why would we risk bringing in more to add to their ranks, even potentially, and bear the financial and social burden that comes with that?”
The notoriously conservative senator insisted that it was too difficult for the UN and Australian authorities to assess whether refugee applicants from the war torn region would not go on to engage in terrorist activities once in Australia.
“In our previous refugee intake, we’ve had examples where people who’ve been accepted as refugees have gone on to commit terrorist acts or plan terror attacks in this country,” he said.
“Now why do we think that suddenly this is going to be any different?
“There is a plethora of fraudulent and falsified documents and you can’t exactly go into Syria to prove up the backstory.
“And in the absence of being able to determine who comes to this country and prove their back story effectively, I think we’ve got to put a stop to it.”
IMAGE: Ban Ki Moon (File image: ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com)