Date: 
Wednesday 3 February 2016

The Australian Human Rights Commission affirms that today’s High Court decision does not alter Australia’s international obligations towards people seeking asylum.

“The High Court has confirmed that third country processing is lawful under our domestic legislation, but it did not judge whether it complies with international law,” said Professor Gillian Triggs, President of the Australian Human Rights Commission.

“Australia has obligations under international human rights law to protect the safety and wellbeing of all people under our jurisdiction, including people seeking asylum.”

“These responsibilities remain whether or not third country processing is authorised by Australian law.”

The Commission is particularly concerned about the children and families who are due to be transferred to Nauru.

Last year, the Commission visited the Wickham Point detention facility in Darwin, accompanied by two senior paediatricians who interviewed and assessed the children detained there using internationally recognised tools appropriate for their ages.

The assessments uncovered concerning evidence about the mental and physical health of these children, most of whom had spent months on Nauru.

Tomorrow, the Commission will be releasing the paediatricians’ report of the visit to Wickham Point.

“Australia has obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child to ensure that in all actions concerning children, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration,” said Professor Triggs.

“We are also obliged to protect children from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

“We are very concerned that returning these children and their families to Nauru would further compromise their health and wellbeing, placing Australia at risk of breaching these international obligations.

“Today’s High Court decision in no way requires the Government to return the children and their families to Nauru. The Minister for Immigration has discretion to decide whether or not they will be sent back.

“Given the risk of harm to these children and their need for ongoing medical care, we strongly urge the Government not to return them to Nauru.”