UN experts voice concern over detention conditions in Australia

6 June 2002

United Nations human rights experts today voiced concern over conditions in Australia's camps for asylum seekers.

At a press conference, Justice Louis Joinet, the head of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which is visiting Australia at the Government's invitation, highlighted concerns about the confinement of children, the disabled and the elderly.

The most delicate issue was the "collective depression syndrome," he said. "We believe that the syndrome may be attributable to the fact that detainees live day in, day out with an agonizing uncertainty."

The UN Working Group's visit, which was mandated by the Geneva-based UN Commission on Human Rights, included stops at five detention centres throughout Australia. In addition to talking to government officials and representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the members interviewed several hundreds detainees.

The Group will present its final report on the Australia visit to the Commission's next session, which opens in March in Geneva. It has conducted previous fact-finding trip to Romania, the United Kingdom, Bhutan, China, Indonesia, Nepal, Peru and Viet Nam.


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