Academics from UNSW's Centre for Refugee Research (CRR) are in Geneva this week to present a statement to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) condemning the Australian government's plan to send 800 refugees who arrive by boat in Australia to Malaysia for processing.
The statement, which was signed by several charities and refugee advocacy organisations, was released at the end of a conference hosted by the CRR.
Dr Eileen Pittaway, Centre Director and a signatory to the statement, said the so-called 'Malaysia-solution' has the potential to legitimise the current treatment of asylum seekers and refugees in Malaysia, a practice that falls seriously below international human rights standards.
"It's a real tragedy that Australia, which was very active in establishing the 1951 Refugee Convention, would even consider sending asylum seekers to Malaysia, a country which isn't a signatory to the convention."
Dr Pittaway and CRR Deputy Director Linda Bartolomei have recently completed a women's dialogue project for the UNHCR that focused on at-risk refugee women and girls in several countries including Jordan, India, Columbia, Uganda, Zambia, Nepal and Finland.
"I feel very concerned about women and girls going to Malaysia," said Dr Pittaway. "Girls as young as 10 are routinely raped in refugee camps worldwide, resulting in an emerging trend of maternal deaths in childbirth."
The conference statement also argues under the government's plan, families will be separated, undermining UNHCR's attempts to ensure refugees have the opportunity to maintain family unity.
Other recommendations from the conference will inform current discussions at the UNHCR Standing Committee, the Annual NGO Consultations and the Annual Tripartite Consultations on Resettlement.
Some of the conference participants tell their personal refugee stories in this video.
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