Human Rights Watch condemns Australia for climate, asylum seekers and indigenous rights

Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers, the detention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the nation’s continued support for fossil fuel industries have been condemned by leading global watchdog Human Rights Watch in its annual global report.

The report says that despite a “strong record of protecting civil and political rights”, serious human rights problems remain.

Last year, the period under review, marked eight years since Australia reintroduced offshore processing.

The system, which the government uses to process asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat, has been called “cruel treatment” which “tarnishes the country’s global reputation” and limits “access to sunlight, space for exercise and fresh air”.

“About 230 refugees and asylum seekers remained in Papua New Guinea and Nauru at the time of writing,” the report said. “Some of the refugees and asylum seekers transferred from Papua New Guinea and Nauru to Australia were held in hotel rooms. At least 12 refugees and asylum seekers died in the offshore processing system Australian since 2013, including six by suicide.

The lack of rights given to First Nations Australians has also been widely criticised.

Despite making up only 3% of the general population, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians make up 30% of all adult prisoners, while Aboriginal children are 17 times more likely than non-Aboriginal Australian children to be imprisoned.

At least 11 Indigenous Australians have died in custody in 2021.

The fact that Australia has yet to raise its national age of criminal responsibility – a policy that disproportionately affects Indigenous youth and allows for the arrest, detention and imprisonment of children as young as 10 years – was also denounced.

While concerns about disability rights, older people’s rights and freedom of expression were highlighted, the impact of Australia’s climate change policy was widely highlighted, with the report including the issue in part of the nation’s assessment for the first time.

“The global climate crisis is a human rights crisis, and Australia, as one of the world’s largest per capita emitters of greenhouse gases, is failing to live up to its global responsibilities” , wrote Sophie McNeill, researcher at Human Rights Watch. group. “The Australian government should quickly reduce emissions and stop subsidizing fossil fuels to avoid the most catastrophic climate consequences.”

In October 2021, Australia committed to achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

While the announcement was applauded, many said the country needed to do much more, including announcing an ambitious emissions reduction target by 2030, halting approvals for new coal mines and scrapping reliefs. significant taxes that continue to benefit fossil fuel companies.

Australia’s ban on citizens traveling in and out of the country at the start of COVID-19 has also been criticized.

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