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U.N. watchdog urges Australia to reform migration laws

Reuters GENEVA (Reuters) — Australia should stop rejecting refugees and change its migration laws to come into line with international standards, the U.N. Human Rights Committee said in a report on Thursday.

The committee, which comprises 18 independent experts and monitors countries’ compliance with a global human rights treaty, said Australia should come back in a year to explain what action it had taken to meet its concerns.

Australia has been widely criticized by the United Nations and rights groups for detaining asylum seekers who try to reach its shores by boat, even if they are found to be refugees, and keeping them on offshore processing centers in Nauru and Papua New Guinea.

The United Nations has warned of a “looming humanitarian crisis” in the Manus Island center in Papua New Guinea. It was closed on Oct. 31 but 600 asylum seekers have refused to leave, fearing violent reprisals from islanders if they move to transit centers, pending possible resettlement to the United States.

The committee’s vice-chair Yuval Shany said although the recommendations were nonbinding, it did not appear Australia was treating its obligations seriously.

“We do not disagree with Australia’s right to adopt a tough policy, for instance on resettlement,” he said.

“What they cannot do is treat asylum seekers as criminals and detain them.” Speech

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