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AASW supports UN special rapporteur

Published: 11 March 2015

Australians rightly feel shocked that they have been accused by the UN’s special rapporteur on torture of violating the rights of asylum seekers, including children to be free from torture and cruel and inhuman treatment. The Prime Minister has been quick to criticise the UN for their assessment. Unfortunately, the AASW can confirm that Australia’s treatment of refugees and asylum seekers, especially the detention of children, does indeed constitute torture according to the definition adhered to by the UN.

The Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) has consistently opposed the mandatory immigration detention of children and rejected the spurious argument that mandatory detention stops children drowning at sea.

Professor Karen Healy, President of the AASW, said that, “It is vital that the United Nations continue to speak out against breaches of human rights. It is too easy for countries to disregard these assessments by simply ignoring them or in this case openly criticising them. It is the UN’s role as an external body to call governments to account. Governments can put great pressure on professionals to be silent on justice. An example of this was the unsubstantiated claims that refugee workers had encouraged asylum seeker to self harm made prior to the Moss inquiry.”

The AASW is the professional body representing more than 8000 social workers throughout Australia. Social workers are involved in the delivery of asylum seeker and refugee services in a range of fields of practice. Social workers have worked on Christmas Island and Nauru and within detention centres in Australia. They also work for formal resettlement services as well as a range of health, mental health, child protection and community services that have met the needs of children and their families who have been in immigration detention.

AASW - Australian Association of Social Workers