* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.
UNHCR is seeking details from the Australian authorities about recent media reports of the Australian navy forcing boats, presumed to be carrying asylum-seekers on their way to Australia, back to Indonesian territorial waters, as well as reports of plans to buy and provide vessels for future push-backs.
UNHCR would be concerned by any policy or practice that involved pushing asylum-seeker boats back at sea without a proper consideration of individual needs for protection. Any such approach would raise significant issues and potentially place Australia in breach of its obligations under the Refugee Convention and other international law obligations.
As past experience has shown, such practices are also operationally difficult and potentially dangerous for all concerned.
Instead of a policy of push-backs, UNHCR continues to recommend that efforts be made to strengthen regional cooperation on the basis of solidarity and responsibility-sharing which build on national asylum systems. UNHCR supports investment in a regional cooperation framework in South East Asia, and recognizes the work of the Bali Process States in addressing protection and humanitarian needs in mixed migration flows in the Asia-Pacific region.
For more information on this topic, please contact:In Bangkok, Vivian Tan on mobile +66 818 270 280 In Geneva, Adrian Edwards on mobile +41 79 557 9120 In Geneva, Babar Baloch on mobile +41 79 557 9106