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Australia unmoved by UN critique of asylum seeker policy

Published on Apr 23, 2014 4:05 PM

SYDNEY (REUTERS) - Australia's immigration minister dismissed on Wednesday United Nations' criticism of its asylum seeker policy, even as fresh evidence emerged of abuses at one of its detention centres in Papua New Guinea.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison hit back after the regional representative for U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said that Australia's policy of sending asylum seekers to third countries for lengthy detention might violate its treaty obligations.

"I'm not surprised. They have always opposed our turn back policy, but I will tell you what Australia's national shame was when it comes to this issue: almost 1,200 people dead at sea," Mr Morrison said in an interview with Sky News. "That's the national shame. That's the regional shame," he said, referring to the number of asylum seekers believed to have died at sea in recent years attempting the perilous crossing.

He was responding to remarks by James Lynch, the UNHCR's regional representative for Southeast Asia, whom the Australian Broadcasting Corporation quoted criticising the policy during a meeting in Indonesia this week.

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